The songs and operas of Richard Strauss have long been associated with the soprano Dame Felicity Lott. Although she’s probably nearing the end of her career it’s good to have this selection of favourites set down on CD.
The seven songs making up Nocturnes are an easy introduction, as “the woods being to rustle” in the expansive harmonic introduction to Waldseligkeit (Woodland Bliss). A slow song, set in Strauss’s ‘rapture’ key of F# major, it suggests an exoticism that crops up again in the more famous Standchen (Serenade). Leises Leid captures the dark of night, and there’s a good depiction of terrible weather in Johnson’s stumbling piano figuration for Schlechtes Wetter.
Unfortunately the Flowers quartet of songs is not as successful. Lott’s tuning and tone sound a bit strained on the upper registers of Blauer Sommer, which ends in bleak despair with the words “my sweetheart has not come, I am entirely alone”.
The Lullabies section includes some of Strauss’s most famous songs and picks up the quality again, with a serene Wiegenlied and the slow, contemplative Ruhe Meine Seele. Girls In And Out Of Love sums up good and bad about this disc, with Lott again strangely uncertain at the top of the register in Ach, was Kummer… but rediscovering her form for the gorgeous Morgen with which the disc ends.
If you’re new to the songs of this masterful vocal composer there’s plenty to whet your appetite here – rich harmony, luscious melodies and interpretations from two performers who’ve lived this music for a long time.
If you happen to be a fan of Felicity Lott however, I would opt for her earlier, orchestrated versions of Strauss songs recorded on Chandos, which capture her voice some fifteen years ago.