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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hampsons' Strauss, 7 April 2014
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Entartete Musik (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Songs By Richard Strauss - Notturno (Audio CD)
Hampson, a doyen of Strauss's Arabella in particular, offers a rich and varied collection of songs, featuring typically communicative performances. Dramatic, proto-operatic even, Hampson's interpretations are immediate and often potent. Wolfgang Rieger's gloriously rhapsodic playing sometimes takes too much of the mix than it should and I don't quite know why 'Morgen' does not feature a solo violin, given Daniel Hope's presence in 'Notturno', but this is an enjoyable listen, not least the title track. This setting of an extended poem by fin-de-siècle doyen Richard Dehmel absolutely justifies Hampson's quietly dramatic performance across the disc as a whole. He, Rieger and Hope offer a spacious but taut performance, featuring a particularly rich bass from Hampson, as Hope's eerie solo emerges above.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hampson, America's pre-eminent lieder singer, is in great form - a wonderful Strauss recital, 6 May 2014
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This review is from: Songs By Richard Strauss - Notturno (Audio CD)
Thomas Hampson first came to my notice as a young singer with lieder albums on Teldec, and this side of his artistry has persisted over the years. He was a fully formed interpreter of the German Romantics from the start, astonishing as that is from an american singer - his dedication to German art song itself is a remarkable feat for a non-European. Like Fischer-Dieskau, he's one of the few baritones to record songs of Richard Strauss, which are almost universally sung by sopranos and, to a leser extent, tenors. but his voice has always had a tenorish extension, and at age 58, his voice remains remarkably supple and bright-sounding, two decided assets in Strauss's long lyrical, often high-reaching melodies.

This CD was preceded by one devoted to Mahler in an orchestral setting, and I was deeply impressed by Hampson's artistry. To my ears, he exceeds Gerhaher, Boesch, and even Goerne in his musical rapport with the varied idioms of German art songs. Here his style is particularly fresh and varied, alive to every change of mood. There is no hint of the opera singer stopping to sing a song, and no platform manner in his delivery. We are in direct contact with the text and musical values of every song. But Hampson enjoys telling a story with a nice sense of drama, as in "Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann." This is immediately followed by a lied owned by sopranos, "Ruhe, meine Seele," where instead of the usual lullaby, Hampson introduces a note of angst that is quite powerful (even if the lowest notes of the song are a bit gravelly).

Collectors will recognize that almost every number is among Strauss's popular hits, with the exception of the title song, Notturno Op. 44 no. 1, which is rarely recorded. At over thirteen minutes, it belongs to the extended ballad form, mostly identified with Loewe but going back to examples by Schubert. Because the form usually includes many repeated stanzas, the freer form of Notturno, featuring an extended - and ravishing - violin obbligato played by Daniel Hope is more interesting, amounting to a dramatic soliloquy. Strauss composed the song in a single day in 1890, with a fervent (over-heated?) text by the late Romantic poet Richard Dehmel, then only 27; he is best known in musical circles for supplying the text that inspired Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht. Strauss premiered the song in Berlin with orchestral accompaniment.

Curiosity about the work sent me to some excellent program notes for the San Francisco Symphony, where I found this comment: "Not­turno is per­haps the most aston­ish­ing achieve­ment among the ear­lier orches­tral lieder. It is more a tone poem for voice and orches­tra than a song and, though it was writ­ten sev­eral years before Salome and Elek­tra shook the musi­cal world, its use of har­monic struc­ture and instru­men­ta­tion to con­vey emo­tion and drama clearly presage what the com­poser would accom­plish in those two operas." Although intended as an orchestral song, Notturno's subject matter, a dream in which Death appears as anight wanderer playing the violin, works very well for piano and violin alone. The melodic inspiration isn't as strong as the moody atmosphere, but it's a riveting song.

Even a great mezzo like Janet Baker finds the intervals tricky in "Heimliche Aufforderung," which Hampson encompasses with a thrilling ease, and even more than Fischer-Dieskau, whose all but complete Strauss collection was a real accomplishment, he makes every song sound appropriate for a lower male voice, both musically and psychologically. I also find Wolfram Rieger, Hampson's longtime pianist, an equal partner (not always the case in some earlier recitals) in terms of his natural feeling and lyrical flow. The ethereal hush of "Morgen" is beautifully captured, for example. It's also remarkable to hear the vocal risks Hampson is willing to take in a challenging song like "Befreit." I risk gushing when I say that everything in this program is rendered with utmost artistry. Highly recommended.

Strauss, R:
Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1
Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3
Winternacht, Op. 15 No. 2
Mein Herz ist stumm, Op. 19 No. 6
Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann, Op. 21 No. 4
Ruhe, meine Seele!, Op. 27 No. 1
Heimliche Aufforderung, Op. 27 No. 3
Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4
Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29 No. 1
Sehnsucht Op. 32 No. 2
Das Rosenband, Op. 36 No. 1
Befreit, Op. 39 No. 4
Notturno, Op. 44 No. 1
with Daniel Hope (violin)
Freundliche Vision, Op. 48 No. 1
Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland Op. 56 No. 6
Vom kunftigen Alter, Op. 87 No. 1
Und dann nicht mehr, Op. 87 No. 3
Im Sonnenschein, Op. 87 No. 4
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5.0 out of 5 stars Notturno by Thomas Hampson, 28 May 2014
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This review is from: Songs By Richard Strauss - Notturno (Audio CD)
In my opinion Thomas Hampson still has the most beautiful voice in the world although approaching his 59th birthday next month. Mellifluous sound and clear diction in several languages make him as pleasure to listen to and Notturno is another winner in a long line of splendid recordings over many years. I thought Wagner would have been the pinnacle of his career but he has shown with this recording that Strauss is yet another of his conquests. Long may he continue to astonish us with his brilliance.
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Songs By Richard Strauss - Notturno
Songs By Richard Strauss - Notturno by Thomas Hampson (Audio CD - 2014)
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