The Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn, who turns 35 this year, has a striking stage presence and impressive artistry. I've admired the beauty of her voice, which is luscious and flexible, making it perfect for a song recital. She has strong dramatic instincts as well, so she is able to put every song across as a gripping story. Listening to her previous CDs, one worried a bit about a wobble that crept in when the voice was under pressure. That still happens to some extent here in this mixed program of Pfitzner, Strauss, and Mahler, but for the most part everything is under good technical control.
Stotijn seems to gravitate to late Romanticism, and she can convey yearning: the album title translates as "The voice of Longing," after a poem by Carl Busse - it's quoted in a brief artist's note from the singer. All three composers represented her were born near to each other, Mahler in 1850, Strauss in 1864, Pfitzner in 1869 (music history would have changed, no doubt, if Mahler had lived into ripe old age along with the other two). Although Pfitzner would not have a great impact on the twentieth century and was a self-declared anti-modernist, his songs are all but indistinguishable in their passionate idiom from Strauss and Mahler's.
There's nothing to criticize artistically from beginning to end in this program. Stotijn sings the familiar items as well as anyone could wish, her general style being to maintain a constant flow of tone, in the vein of Christa Ludwig. She pays attention to the texts, and best of all, she has in Joseph Breinl a first-rate pianist who offers accompaniments that go far beyond merely supporting the singer - I'd be glad to hear him play even if she were absent. The recorded sound, form sessions in March 2011, is exemplary.
The artist-run label Onyx has been compiling an enviable catalog, and this is a fine addition, especially in an era where the major labels hardly ever take such a risk as lieder recitals. The packaging is a cardboard sleeve with full texts tucked in.