Strauss: The Complete Songs, Vol. 5

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: R,Strauss
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Mädchenblumen, Op. 22; Sechs Lieder, Op. 68; Frühlingsgedränge, Op. 26, No. 1 etc
PERFORMER: Kiera Duffy (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67746

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I came to this disc after hearing Diana Damrau’s Strauss recital in Edinburgh, which left me reeling, and revisiting Damrau’s Salzburg recording of the Mädchenblumen.American soprano Kiera Duffy comes nowhere near.

 
Duffy’s is a bright, light soprano with a stylish sense of phrasing and some rapturous top Bs in her armoury. But without the tone colours of Damrau – also a coloratura, as Duffy clearly can be – her monochrome voice is not up to a whole Strauss programme of mostly sweet and pert songs.
 
Two stand out: the harmonically wayward ‘Junghexenlied’, where Duffy has the right abrasive edge and hint of witchy malice, and the radiant ‘Als mir dein Lied erklang’. But the latter is part of the treacherously wide-ranging Brentano Lieder, Op. 68, and though technically Duffy just about manages them all, the effect is wearing.
 
As before in this series, Roger Vignoles has gone for a chronological sequence. It’s fun to hear him exuberantly unleash chromatic tricks and sideslips in ‘Mein Auge’ and at the halfway mark in ‘Herr Lenz’. He might have had a bit more fun, though, with the curlicues of ‘Muttertändelei’, which again suits a slightly brittle quality in Duffy’s voice well. However, there’s no doubt that by the big final song on the disc, ‘Lied der Frauen’, we’re crying out for a more opulent voice, like that of the soprano who launched the series, Christine Brewer (reviewed June 2005), or the quirky variety of Anne Schwanewilms on the second volume (reviewed June 2007). David Nice