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Strauss: Famous Orchestral Songs / Chen, Brosse, Shanghai Opera Orchestra


Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Pavane   Catalog #: 7542   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Shanghai Opera House Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



STRAUSS Befreit,. Das Rosenband. Ständchen. Allerseelen. Ich trage meine Minne. Ruhe, meine Seele. Zueignung. Freundliche Vision. Morgen. Cäcilie. 4 Last Songs Qilian Chen (sop); Dirk Brossé, cond; Shanghai Op House O PAVANE 7542 (53:18) Live: Shanghai 11/14/2010


Conspicuous by its absence from this album titled Famous Orchestral Songs by Richard Strauss is one of the composer’s most famous songs, and one of my favorites, Read more style="font-style:italic">Wiegenlied , the only one of the five songs from his op. 41 group that Strauss provided with an orchestral accompaniment. Oh well, let me focus on what’s here rather than bemoan what isn’t.


A native of Dalian in the northeast of China, Qilian Chen graduated from Shenyang Music Conservatory before making her way to Belgium, where she earned advanced degrees from the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. Awards followed—at the Pavarotti Competition in Philadelphia and the Madame Butterfly Competition in Barcelona—as well as engagements to appear in the title roles of Butterfly and Turandot . Since then, Chen has made at least 200 appearances on stages throughout Europe and the U.S. Unfortunately, her presence on record is limited to a disc of Chinese songs and, according to Pavane’s booklet, two discs of Puccini arias. The latter I don’t find listed at either Amazon or ArkivMusic. Perhaps they can be purchased directly from Pavane’s website, pavane.com.


Chen possesses a beautiful voice, one that is perfectly suited, I think, to Strauss’s soaring lyricism, which generally requires a higher-lying tessitura than, say, do the songs of Brahms, yet still requires a certain Wagnerian heft. I never cease to marvel at how gloriously incandescent Strauss’s song writing is, especially for the soprano voice. He loved women, and not in some idealized sense. No other composer’s songs are as sensuous and sensual; they exude eroticism from every crescendo even if you don’t have a clue as to what all of the mounting ecstasy is about, which, in this case, you won’t, unless you comprehend German or are already familiar with these specific titles, since neither texts nor descriptions of the songs are included.


Although I think it’s poor form on the part of Pavane to omit texts as well as any background information on the individual songs, in one way I find it a blessing. There is nothing to distract me from simply listening to Strauss’s radiant music and Chen’s iridescent voice. Her singing held me spellbound and more than once stopped my breath.


It’s hard to single out one song for being more perfectly projected than any of the others, but Morgen really holds me in its thrall, perhaps as much for its magical orchestration as for its vocal part. Set to a poem by John Henry Mackay, it belongs to the set of four op. 27 songs that Strauss wrote in 1894 as a wedding present for his wife, Pauline. Accompanied by a solo violin, harp, muted strings, and three horns, Morgen comes at the beginning of Strauss’s lifelong love affair with Pauline, yet anticipates in feeling its end 54 years later in the concluding number of the Four Last Songs , “Im Abendrot.”


Chen concludes her recital with the Four Last Songs , one of the pinnacles of the German Lied literature. The songs place a plethora of challenging physical and technical demands on the singer: wide frequency and dynamic ranges, wide and awkward interval leaps, and concentrated breath control and sustaining power.


Two recordings stand out for me, each for different reasons. One dates back to 1973 but has exceptionally good sound, and that’s the one with Gundula Janowitz, Herbert von Karajan, and the Berlin Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon. Hers may not have been the most magnificent voice ever to essay the songs, but at least on that particular occasion it possessed a special timbre that made it sound like an extension of the orchestra, blending one moment with the clarinets and the next with the horns, so that her phrase endings took on the tonal characteristics of the instruments. The second recording, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the one with Jessye Norman, Kurt Masur, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on Philips. Here there’s little effort made to subsume the voice into the orchestral textures. Norman soars above it all, and with swells of dynamic intensity and the lung capacity of an Olympic athlete that never fail to quicken the pulse.


Qilian Chen doesn’t achieve quite the chiaroscuro or voice colorations of Janowitz, nor does she possess the “swell” power of Norman, but her Four Last Songs are very sensitively drawn and finely sung. In all of this, Dirk Brossé leads the Shanghai Opera House Orchestra in wonderfully detailed and vibrant accompaniments.


If you don’t know Strauss’s songs at all, you don’t know what you’ve been missing, but this CD containing a number of his best and most popular songs is a good place to start. For those who do know this repertoire inside out from recordings by some of the most famous Lied singers of all time, I’d still recommend this release to you as one the most satisfying Strauss song programs I’ve heard in a long time. I’ll just say pooh on Pavane for not including texts.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Lieder (5), Op. 39: no 4, Befreit by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Shanghai Opera House Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 5 Minutes 27 Secs. 
2.
Lieder (4), Op. 36: no 1, Das Rosenband by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 
3.
Lieder (6), Op. 17: no 2, Ständchen by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885-1887; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 3 Minutes 5 Secs. 
4.
Lieder (8), Op. 10: no 8, Allerseelen by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
5.
Lieder (5), Op. 32: no 1, Ich trage meine Minne by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
6.
Lieder (4), Op. 27: no 1, Ruhe, meine Seele by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 4 Minutes 5 Secs. 
7.
Lieder (8), Op. 10: no 1, Zueignung by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
8.
Lieder (5), Op. 48: no 1, Freundliche Vision by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 2 Minutes 47 Secs. 
9.
Lieder (4), Op. 27: no 4, Morgen by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 4 Minutes 15 Secs. 
10.
Lieder (4), Op. 27: no 2, Cäcilie by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 2 Minutes 18 Secs. 
11.
Four Last Songs, AV 150 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Qilian Chen ()
Conductor:  Dirk Brossé
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1948; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/14/2010 
Venue:  Shanghai 
Length: 20 Minutes 10 Secs. 

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