LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
PERFORMER: Birgit Remmert (alto), Jan Schultsz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901751
The six-year-old Strauss’s Lieder-debut was a song for Christmas. He wouldn’t have it printed and, sadly, we don’t have it here; but this short anthology of 21 of the composer’s 205 grown-up Lieder is just made for the Christmas stocking.
The first songs Strauss did consent to have published were his Op. 10 settings of Hermann von Gilm’s enraptured poems of love and loss – and they’re all here. ‘Zueignung’ is, in Birgit Remmert’s solemn performance, more about heartfelt respect than rapture, and it tends to be weighed down by Jan Schultsz’s over-emphatic piano-playing. Remmert’s contralto is, not surprisingly, more at home among the fearful shadows of ‘Die Nacht’. And her steady tone and warm legato give ardour to the sober communing of ‘Allerseelen’ and the muted intimacies of ‘Geduld’. Its powerfully built intensity is carried over impressively into the righteous indignation of ‘Die Verschwiegenen’.
Remmert’s qualities of concentrated focus and rapt ‘innigkeit’ are at their best in songs such as ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’. When it comes to more extrovert Lieder, one longs for a keener imaginative engagement, and a hint, at least, of a smile to give lift-off to ‘Ständchen’ and to set in motion the ‘kling-klang’ heartbeat of ‘Schlagende Herzen’. Good, if not great Strauss singing. Hilary Finch