PERFORMER: Marie McLaughlin (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66659 DDD
Songs provide one of the strongest threads running right through Strauss’s creative output. Early on, alongside the song-writing, the symphonic poem seemed his obsession, then his operatic works were the mainstay of his musical drive, but always there were songs. Only when Strauss fell out with his publisher did the songs stop for a while.
This is an enormously enjoyable recital with a varied and balanced choice of songs. McLaughlin and Johnson deliver a lovely mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Most of the early songs (1870-78) are unavailable elsewhere. Simple but telling vocal lines in the 1877 ‘Die Drossel’, the 1878 ‘Wiegenlied’ and the 1870 ‘Weihnachtslied’, written when Strauss was only six, are delightfully performed. McLaughlin is at her vibrant best in ‘Schlagende Herzen’ and ‘Zueignung’. There is a glorious bloom to her voice throughout this disc, with only one or two small scoops which jar slightly. The progression of Strauss’s musical language, with intricate shifts of tonality, is charted well. In ‘Allerseelen’ and ‘Morgen’, Johnson’s playing and timing, with the spaces between the notes being as balanced and instinctively felt as the sweep and sound of the notes and chords themselves, are a musical treat.