Strauss: Der Abend, Op. 34/1; Hymne, Op. 34/2; Deutsche Motette, Op. 62; An den Baum Daphne; Die Göttin im Putzzimmer

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COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Der Abend, Op. 34/1; Hymne, Op. 34/2; Deutsche Motette, Op. 62; An den Baum Daphne; Die Göttin im Putzzimmer
PERFORMER: Tina Kiberg (soprano), Randi Stene (alto), Gert Henning-Jensen (tenor), Ulrik Cold (bass)Danish National Radio Choir & Chamber Choir/Stefan Parkman
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9223 DDD
Nature-worship plays a luminous part in these unaccompanied choral works, coinciding with three highly creative phases of Strauss’s maturity and calling on the kind of professional large-scale choirs he knew so well from his conducting experiences in the opera houses of Munich, Berlin and Vienna. The centrepiece is the 1913 Deutsche Motette, riding the crest of the poet Rückert’s high-flown verses with a security that the First World War would soon demolish. The Danish National Radio Choir provides the pastel background for a fine team of operatic soloists – no problems with radiant high Cs and D flats for soprano Tina Kiberg – before coming into its own for a rainbow-coloured corporate climax.

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It’s a pity that conductor Stefan Parkman fails to highlight the vital strands in a similarly florid sequence towards the end of Hymne, second of the two earlier choral anthems. Here, sumptuous block harmonies sound more effectively than individual lines, more expressively shaped by members of Norrington’s Schütz Choir on Decca. Chandos scores its highest marks with the novelty of the tongue-twisting intermezzo Die Göttin im Putzzimmer (The Goddess in the Boudoir) and the glowing choral footnote to the opera Daphne, illustrating the heroine’s transformation into a laurel tree as Strauss had originally planned before he had the brighter idea of an on-stage metamorphosis. David Nice