R Strauss: Poesie

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Poesie: Lieder including Op. 68 and selections from Opp. 10, 15, 17, 27, 29, 36, 37, 41, 43, 47, 48, 49 & 88
PERFORMER: Diana Damrau (soprano); Munich PO/Christian Thielemann
CATALOGUE NO: 628 6640

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Super-intelligent coloratura’ must once have sounded like an oxymoron. Then along came Edita Gruberova, followed more recently by Natalie Dessay and Diana Damrau.

Only several of the Op. 68 Brentano settings are truly applicable to their voice-type among Strauss’s Lieder, and while Dessay included four of them as a sequence in another Virgin Strauss treasury, Damrau sprinkles them throughout this substantial collection. 

It’s a welcome full-orchestral sequel to her splendid Salzburg Lieder recital on Orfeo (reviewed September 2006), which followed Berg, Mahler and Wolf with Strauss’s Madchenblumen and the two coloratura-appropriate Brentano songs. The taxing final ‘Lied der Frauen’ of that sequence is almost a step too far, since the heroic style isn’t really Damrau’s strong point (though the pronounced vibrato is only slightly less essential to her musical personality than was the great Lucia Popp’s). 

What wins this disc the five stars are the facts that Damrau, singing in her native German, is poised ideally between dreamy haze and Schwarzkopfian fussiness – ‘Traum durch die Dämmerung’ is the perfect example – and that her hallowed pianissimos allow the exquisite detail Thielemann draws from his Munich players to shine. And so we get all the low clarinet colours in ‘Waldseligkeit’, the chamber-musical solo strings of ‘Winterweihe’ and ‘Meinem kinde’ and even the slightest change of register in other songs.

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That points up all the more how Heger’s orchestration of ‘Allerseelen’ really isn’t in the same league; this is the only song I prefer with piano accompaniment even though two others are also non-Strauss arrangements. Otherwise, the ineffable balance between voice and orchestra, subtly assisted by the engineering, is a treat throughout. David Nice