Notes and Editorial Reviews
A distinguished collaboration, a satisfying program, and performances to treasure.
A distinguished collaboration, a satisfying programme, and performances to treasure. Among the many recordings of the Alto Rhapsody and the Wesendonk Lieder there are few to match these. A very slight loosening of vocal texture marks the five-year interval between the date of the recordings—the Brahms having the perfect firmness of the singer in her prime, while in the Wagner we are aware every now and then of the individual vibrations. But in each of the Wagner songs the mood is beautifully caught and the interplay between voice and instruments exquisitely judged. Sir Adrian is a most wonderful accompanist here, giving support to the voice with a finely judged crescendo in the climax of "Stehe still" and providing a bed of the softest down for "Träume". I like too how in that song he does not make unmarked accelerations yet still quickens the emotional pulse in the dotted-note sequences, and similarly how he respects the composer's directions to take "Schmerzen" langsam and breit. Throughout, Dame Janet colours, phrases and gives herself to the songs like the great artist she is.
On the occasion of the original issue I found the Strauss songs less idiomatic and a shade too heavy, yet now the robust forthrightness of the singer's approach makes me less inclined to invoke the names of fairly obvious rivals for comparison. The fervent lustre of Liebeshymnus makes a particularly exciting effect after the Wagner, and always there are beauties of orchestration to enjoy. The epic quality of Ruhe, meine Seete has rarely been more stirring, and the playfulness of Muttertändelei has the kind of warmth and vitality that Strauss may well have had in mind when he dedicated it to Ernestine Schumann-Heink.
-- Gramophone [8/1988]