Site review by Geohominid April 6, 2009
Performance: Sonics (S/MC): /
|For me, Camilla Tilling has an ideal voice for the lieder of Richard Strauss; fresh and youthful in sound, with a fast, light vibrato, applied with intelligent and mature interpretative skill. Strauss mostly had in mind the voice of his wife, soprano Pauline de Ahna, when composing his songs. After her retirement from the stage, he found a new exponent in the young Elizabeth Schumann. Many of the favourites which Camilla Tilling has chosen for this disc featured often in Schumann's own recitals.
Here is Tilling's programme: Rote Rosen AV76, Malven AV304, Leises Lied Op.39 No.1, Junghexenlied Op.39 No.2, Cäcilie, Op.27 No.2, Befreit Op.39 No.4, Drei Lieder der Ophelia Op.67 Nos 1–3, Allerseelen Op.10 No.8, Ich schwebe Op.48 No.2, Muttertändelei Op.43 No.2, Einerlei, Op.69 No.3, Schlechtes Wetter Op.69 No.5, Das Rosenband Op.36 No.1, Hat gesagt – bleibt’s nicht dabei Op.36 No.3, All mein’ Gedanken Op.21 No.1, Du meines Herzens Krönelein Op.21 No.2, Meinem Kinde Op.37 No.3, Mein Auge Op.37 No.4, Morgen! Op.27 No.4.
Her choice ranges widely, and includes some songs which are less often heard as well as some perennial favourites. The list includes one of the earliest songs (the titular Rote Rosen, 1883) and the last, Malven (1948), written for the soprano Maria Jeritza who had created several roles in Strauss' operas. It was only discovered in 1983 amongst the singer's papers, and has some of the same melismas as the Four Last Songs, completed at the same time.
Both Tilling and her accompanist Paul Rivinius have a fine sense for Strauss' flowing Romantic lines and word-painting, bringing the songs to life with warmth and character. 'Ich Schwebe '(I soar) finds them almost breathless and swooning with young girl's love. 'Muttertändelei' (Mother's love) is a tongue in cheek and amusing parody of the 'pushy parent', perhaps a gentle satire of Pauline's well-known over-protectiveness of the Strauss offspring. 'Schlechtes Wetter' (Bad Weather) is superbly characterised by Paul Rivinius, unleashing vivid squalls and precision rain-drops upon his singer. 'Junghexenlied' (The Young Witch's song) pitches us headlong into the thrilling gallop of a night ride in the mountains where the disembodied voice of a child keeps intruding.
At the dramatic heart of the recital are the three Ophelia songs. Tilling changes her vocal colour often to underline the mental instability of Shakespeare's tragic character; she wheedles, mutters, insinuates and yet has steel in her voice when she manically cries "Tod!" (Death). Tilling shows virtuosic handling of Strauss' difficult writing and is often chillingly detached from reality in these Mad Songs.
Throughout, Rivinius is an exemplary accompanist. He plays the often rich and lengthy preludes and postludes to the songs with full orchestral colours, a feature of Strauss' own playing as recalled by Elisabeth Schumann herself. His playing is expansive and eloquent, an equal partner in these fine interpretations. Both artists float true pianissimos into the auditorium, yet are capable of impressive and effortless climaxes, which display superb internal balancing as well as unobtrusive support from the recording engineers. The sound is breathtaking in its realism and fidelity to every nuance in the performance, ideally set back somewhat in an airy and responsive acoustic, which Tilling uses to her advantage.
The recital ends with the glorious "Morgen!", where we suddenly eavesdrop on an ecstatic night-time anticipation of greeting the Beloved again when morning finally arrives. Here violinist Ulf Wallin is brought in to play the solo violin used so much in Strauss' orchestral music to represent the unfettered soul. Although this was sanctioned by Strauss (and played very well here), I feel it broke the atmosphere of intimate communication so well established between pianist and singer. Also I personally much prefer the simplicity of the original piano accompaniment, which distils and focusses the extraordinary tranquillity and contentment of the song into the voice, whereas the violin competes for attention. At just under the hour's playing time, there would have been plenty of room to include both versions of Morgen!, allowing the listener to programme their preference - or hear both.
As usual, the BIS presentation is well-designed and informative, with a substantial discussion of the poetry Strauss preferred, in English, German and French. Texts are in German and English, all in very readable typography.
A very welcome recital of Strauss Lieder, performed with flair and distinction, recorded with text-book balance and realism.
Copyright © 2009 John Miller and SA-CD.net