Notes and Editorial Reviews
Allerseelen. Schön sind, doch kalt. Die Nacht. Ich trage meine Minne. Die Georgine. Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden. Mein Auge. Meinem Kinde. Mutterändelei. All mein’ Gedanken. Ständchen. Zueignung. Das Rosenband. Wie solten wir geheim sie hatten. Du meines Herzens Krönerlein. Mein Herz ist stumm. Befreit. Morgen! Cäcilie. 3 Lieder der Ophelia. Malven
Soile Isokoski (sop); Marita Viitasalo (pn)
ONDINE ODE 1187-2 (64:05
Text and Translation)
A German poet’s true love, if she lived in the 19th century, was decidedly angelic in nature. She was, of course beautiful, but virtuous and pure as well, as evidenced by the lyrics we hear on this disc: “your snowy innocence,” “your sweet glances,” “you are so gentle and quiet,” “you are like a rose in the forest that knows nothing of its blossom.” Richard Strauss presumably saw such qualities in his wife, Pauline, the inspiration for many of these song settings, conceived with her voice in mind, dedicated to her, and sung by her. Although these attributes have little to do with the ideal female of the 21st century, they seem to perfectly match the voice and temperament of Soile Isokoski, whose chaste, ingenuous, and beautiful singing gives a sense of authenticity to such works as
Ich trage meine Minne, Mein Auge,
Du meines Herzens Krönerlein
. As well, Isakoski’s superb musicianship seems to be entirely in the service of the music, easily convincing the listener of her deep emotional commitment to each song. Pianist Marita Viitasalo is an excellent foil for this artist, although her sweet and discreet playing is more effective in ensemble rather than solo passages. When, for example, the opening solo phrase of
is later repeated as an accompaniment within the body of the song, it is more evocative and graceful, perhaps a little less self-conscious. As for the singing in this particular case, one is not absolutely certain whether Isokoski is reliving or simply imagining the rich past and the early days of love. The tone is limpid, the phrasing supple but one has the feeling that she does not totally own the song. This listener prefers a live recording by Zinka Milanov (Legato Classics), although the sound technology is quite poor. Milanov seems to invest everything she has in the piece, sung just before her retirement in 1966.
When it comes to worldly subjects and passionate declarations, Isokoski appears to be in rather unchartered waters, so that her still-beautiful singing in
is less arresting. When one hears
one prefers the dynamic sweep of Birgit Nilsson (Bluebell), or the more earthy temperament of Marie McLaughlin (Hyperion).
Most of the performances on this disc are deeply moving. A few do not reach the end of dramatic possibility, but one learns over many years of listening to judge artists by their best. When the truth is sung so well, incidental shortcomings are of little account and one admires an artist like Soile Isokoski for her best, which turns out to be some of the best I know.
FANFARE: Raymond Beegle
Works on This Recording
Malven, AV 304 by Richard Strauss
Soile Isokoski (Soprano),
Marita Viitasalo (Piano)
Written: 1948; Germany
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