Strauss: A Garland of Strauss Songs: Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: A Garland of Strauss Songs: Lieder
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano)Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1155
Felicity Lott’s collection of Strauss’s orchestral songs with the Scottish National Orchestra under Neeme Järvi (Chandos) was less than the sum of its parts, with Lott striving for that sine qua non of Straussian singing, a lightness of touch and a silvery tone, and not quite finding it.

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This new collection, coyly arranged into groups such as ‘Flowers, Valedictions and Lullabies’ and ‘Girls in and out of love’ by her accompanist Graham Johnson, proclaims the same virtues and vices as that earlier release. Lott is scrupulous in her attention to the score, exemplary in her diction and matchless in her feeling for the drama of these Lieder. Old favourites such as ‘Waldseligkeit’, ‘Wiegenlied’ and ‘Zueignung’ are elegantly done, even if Lott has a tendency to domesticate the emotions that run so richly through a Strauss song. Is she perhaps better mannered than she should be? Jessye Norman (Philips) left her manners at the studio door and ripped right into this repertoire. And Norman and Anne Sofie von Otter after her (DG) burnished their upper registers with silver. Lott, however, sometimes finds herself stretching for her top notes and the tone is not as secure as it once was.

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Graham Johnson’s piano does Lott no favours, either. There is an uncomfortably bright tone to his playing and an excess of pedal on occasions. (‘Ruhe, meine Seele’ is particularly heavy-footed.) However, where Johnson and Lott do win out is with Strauss’s Ophelia Songs. Lightening the voice to suggest a girl well on the wrong side of sanity Lott relishes their drama and takes Strauss’s chromatic jumps like a thoroughbred. Christopher Cook