Hyperions Strauss Lieder series continues to demonstrate that the composers achievements in this genre are among the most fascinating and accomplished of his works. This latest volume includes, for instance, the delicious Schlechtes Wetter
from Op 69, and the lovelyand unknownWaldesfahrt
from the same group. The delicately beautiful Malve
(never published in Strausss lifetime, and first performed by Kiri Te Kanawa in 1985), with which the recital ends, is known as Strausss Fifth Last Song.
The central work recorded here, Krämerspiegel
, owes its genesis to Strausss long-lasting and bitter dispute with the German music publishing industry. A Berlin literary critic, Alfred Kerr, wrote him a witty set of satirical verses lampooning music publishers, mentioning many of Strausss principal enemies by name. Strauss set all twelve poems to music, and this practical joke finally saw the light of day in 1921. It is easy to understand why the cycle is now rarely performed, given that the texts consist entirely of in-jokes, and that the lions share of the music is given to the pianist. But Strausss music is well worth savouring, not least for its humorous references to Strausss own works, such as Der Rosenkavalier
and Ein Heldenleben
, and especially for the beautiful prelude to the eighth song and its reprise as the final extended postludeused by the composer nearly a quarter of a century later, in his opera Capriccio
Roger Vignoles is the curator and pianist of this series, and also writes the informative booklet notes. Making her Hyperion debut is soprano Elizabeth Watts, of whom The Guardian
commented at a recent Strauss Lieder recital: Watts, winner of the Lieder prize at Cardiff Singer of the World in 2007, is already a major artist, but this struck me as making a transformation into a great one, as well as allowing us to hear her in music she seems to have been born to sing. Watts has the right tonal glamour for Strauss along with that tricky combination of vocal ease and immaculate control that his work requires.
Elizabeth Watts, soprano - Roger Vignoles, piano