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R Strauss

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Berlin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Secret Invitation
WORKS: Secret Invitation: songs including Heimliche Aufforderung, Drei Lieder der Ophelia, Ein Alphorn hör’ ich schallen, Zueignung, Madrigal, Morgen, Traum durch die Dämmerung and Das Rosenband
PERFORMER: Christiane Karg (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Felix Klieser

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The enraptured unfurling of sound in Malcolm Martineau’s piano introduction creates dappled light for Christiane Karg’s long, warm-breathed phrasing in Das Rosenband, a radiant start to this recital. The Bavarian soprano is a delectably light, idiomatic Straussian, and the covered, pearly underside of her voice is the perfect instrument with which to recreate the secret moments and intimacy of the songs she has selected here. For this is, as the title of the disc implies, a ‘Secret Invitation’ to the innermost heart of Strauss’s songwriting – to that place where, in songs such as Befreit and Heimliche Aufforderung (Secret Invitation) itself, their ecstatic intimacy makes us feel almost as though we’re eavesdropping.

Karg’s Freundliche Vision is beautifully shaped; the half-lights and twilight images of Traum durch die Dämmerung imaginatively tinted with light vocal brushstrokes. And I particularly like the simplicity of Karg’s Morgen and Zueignung. There are lesser-known songs, too: a real curiosity in Strauss’s setting of the poet Justinus Kerner’s nostalgic Alphorn which introduces the fine young horn player Felix Klieser; and a sombre, strong setting of the Michelangelo Madrigal – all too seldom performed. Karg’s Ophelia Songs are moving in their bleached, waif-like tones, their distracted volatility nicely recreated in the fingers of Martineau.

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Hilary Finch