This is a beautiful recital of some of Strauss's finest songs grouped under headings suggested by the disc's title, very well recorded in the warm acoustic of Potton Hall in Suffolk. I just wish the presentation were better. At full price we are surely entitled to the sung texts with English translations; all we get are some sketchy notes. The track lists lack opus numbers, which are important reference points, and only some of them are mentioned in the notes. I think the performers deserve better editorial support than this. A fine achievement nonetheless.
An intelligent and beautifully clear British soprano singing Strauss apparently without effort. She's at the start of what should be a great career, very ably supported by a superb accompanist. In a way it put me in mind of the great Janet Baker's Frauenliebe und Leben: utterly different voice, but huge musical and emotional intelligence promising really great things.
This artfully programmed debut Lieder recital has something in common with Schumann’s "Frauenliebe und Leben", in that it leads us via a compilation of twenty-three songs on a journey through life from youth, longing, passion, partnership, motherhood and loss to death and “release”. It is unfortunately compromised by the lack of texts and translations, surely essential to a proper appreciation of the lovely songs, which were written between 1895 and 1918 and are mostly the product of Strauss’ early maturity. However, at least we are given excellent guidance notes provided by Joanna Wyld.
Louise Alder, currently a member of the Frankfurt Opera, was the winner of the Audience Prize at the 2017 Cardiff Singer of the World competition and has recently made a name for herself as a superb Sophie at the Proms and on tour in the Welsh National Opera’s "Der Rosenkavalier". I was recently privileged to hear her in that role at the Birmingham Hippodrome and was enchanted by both her singing and stage presence; I was therefore surprised to find that the microphone in this excellent recording catches something of an edge in the top of her voice which was not apparent to me live, where her voice emerged as bright but not shrill. That apart, her exemplary German diction, pure, long-breathed line and clear identification with the emotional import of the poetry all serve her very well here. She is by no means the first singer to present these songs; many of them have understandably been favourites with great artists such as Gundula Janowitz, Barbara Hendricks, Jessye Norman, Simon Keenlyside, Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann – with whose 2005 recital this has ten songs in common. She has clearly and wisely made a careful selection designed to avoid tackling those songs which need a bigger, fuller sound than that which she currently possesses. Inextricably wedded as I am to the languorous beauty of Beverly Sills’ lush, rapturous version of “Breit über mein Haupt”, the account here sounds almost perfunctory, but Sills is accompanied by Julius Rudel in a full orchestral arrangement, whereas Alder, like Kaufmann, employs the conventional piano accompaniment, which is no doubt closer to what the composer intended and cannot be taken as slowly. The delicacy of Alder’s lyric soprano matches the songs chosen very well; she maintains a fine, light line, even if, again, just occasionally, the tone hardens in alt. Given the vivid way in which she enlivens words, I wonder why I do not find her voice to have as much personality or “face” as favourite recitalists but that is merely a personal reaction.
Jospeh Middleton’s pianism is exemplary, as is the recorded sound.
I think it a pity that the singer’s own thanks and dedication to those who have helped her on her way to stardom resort to the customary yoofspeak hyperbole by calling them “incredible, brilliant and amazing” – but her gratitude otherwise sounds sincere.
[This review is also posted on the MusicWeb International website]