Don Juan, Op. 20; Brantano Lieder, Op. 68; Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
Louise Alder (soprano); Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Robin Ticciati
Linn CKD640 68:34 mins
When orchestral sonorities and engineering coincide like this, the result in Strauss is thrilling. You not only hear every line in Don Juan and Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration); there’s also a unique middle-to-upper-range brilliance which gives a special sheen to the lover’s exploits and prevents the thrashings of the dying protagonist of the longer symphonic poem from ever sounding turgid. Robin Ticciati’s winged uplift gilds the afterlife beautifully, while there’s dynamic restraint and atmosphere around Don Juan’s two love episodes, and magical woodwind solos throughout.
The originality of the programme, in the line of earlier instalments matching Debussy with Duruflé and Fauré, lies in the central group of songs, composed much later than the tone poems in 1918. One voice rarely fits all here: Natalie Dessay recorded four out of six, and the outer numbers mean that the soprano has to veer to the heroic as well as the Zerbinetta-ish coloratura of ‘Amor’. Recorded balance no doubt helps, but lyric of the moment Louise Alder handles it all with personality and luminous security throughout a wide register. The most lovable numbers are the second and third, with complementary woodwind echoes; Brentano’s poetry is a bit sickly in the first, ‘To night’ – ‘all our wounds bleed sweetly in the sunset’ – and ‘Song of the Women’ rather loses the thread of danger workers’ wives. The hovering between major and minor in the end is nicely complemented by the way the second of the orchestral works which follows decisively favours the dark at first.