PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano)Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 460 812-2
After her Ariadne and her Rosenkavalier, this is the Bonney/ Strauss disc we’ve been waiting for: a selection of the composer’s most delectable songs, performed with all the warmth, intimacy and discernment one would expect from the American soprano.
The eight songs of Op. 10 include ‘Zueignung’, with each exclamation of ‘Habe dank’’ ringing out in a crescendo of ecstasy; and ‘Allerseelen’, in which Bonney focuses on the vibrant memory of May rather than the oppressive scent of the funeral parlour. And, at the other end of her recital come the Four Last Songs, in Max Wolff’s piano arrangement. This is always a huge challenge for any pianist – to tune a vast imagined orchestral palette to every shifting tone of voice, and to sustain the virtually unsustainable long violin lines of ‘Beim Schlafengehen’. But the keen-eared Malcolm Martineau provides a lively balance of voices: it’s just a pity the piano is not recorded with a little more clarity and air.
Bonney offers a sprightly, eager ‘Frühling’, just a little tense at the top of her register: she leaves it to ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ to float the voice on the soul’s spreading wings. And in between these two great opuses come seven more of Strauss’s best-known songs, including an impassioned ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’, two slightly over-breathy lullabies, and a ‘Morgen’ of clear, light air. Hilary Finch