Schumann/Mahler/Brahms/Strauss

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann/Mahler/Brahms/Strauss
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Christa Ludwig (mezzo), Charles Spencer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61547 2 DDD
Cheryl Studer is disappointing in the song repertoire. As with her previous disc, of Schubert lieder (1991), this recital reveals that her dramatic soprano, which has the range to deliver the roles of Violetta and Sieglinde, does not seem to be able to tap into the reflection and introspection of expression necessary to fulfil the demands of song interpretation. In Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées, just when a well-turned phrase seems to be lifting the performance to an exciting level, Studer’s intrusive edginess ruins the possibility. This same wildness of tone adversely affects the Schubert and Strauss lieder groups. ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ is the most successful in the former, but in the latter ‘Morgen!’ and ‘Zueignung’ suffer greatly.

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‘Morgen!’ receives a shimmering performance on the farewell disc from the veteran mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig. The repertoire, pitch and pace of this recital have been carefully chosen to display her still remarkable abilities. Her depth of expression and the warmth and intensity of her delivery is illuminating. The Mahler group – including ‘Das irdische Leben’ and ‘Um Mitternacht’ – is the most taxing on Ludwig’s resources but she is well supported by Charles Spencer, who provides superb accompaniments and proves an astute ally throughout. This disc has been released to coincide with Ludwig’s farewell recital in Salzburg. She is giving farewell recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall on the 13th and 18th of October. Elisse McDougall