R. Strauss Lieder
This must be one of the most enjoyable of all Dame Kiri's discs. It deserves to be in the collection of every Straussian or indeed that of any Lieder enthusiast. But perhaps its most remarkable feature is that Sir Georg, in his late seventies, should be willing to lay his reputation on the line and tackle the far from easy piano part in no fewer than 13 of Strauss's songs and triumph almost without reservation, playing with agility and, what is even more important, the benefit of a lifetime in the composer's service.
These two artists, as apparently in the eagerly awaited Otello, seem to gain a new charge of enthusiasm from their work together. That is indubitably the case in their account of the Four Last Songs, which surpasses the soprano's already excellent performance with Andrew Davis (CBS). The tone has lost little or none of its lustrous quality, and the phrasing and moulding of the text (though still not ideally idiomatic) has gained in detailing without any loss of the former spontaneity. Solti, happily, isn't one to linger sentimentally over any aspect of these elegiac pieces. Much in the mould of some cherishable performances of the past, those by Della Casa (Decca), Jurinac (EMI) and the underrated Janowitz (DG), it hasn't quite that peculiarly elegiac quality found in Schwarzkopf's Festival Hall account with Karajan, recently uncovered by EMI, but it is more tonally glorious, more radiant than any except that of Janowitz.
One may regret that these artists didn't go on to record the other songs in their orchestral versions while they were in Vienna but that would have deprived us of Solti's playing and of hearing Te Kanawa manage a more intimate, communicative manner than is apparent on her other discs in this genre. There are some lovely performances here. The very late Malven is sung simply, artlessly, just right. Standchen is properly ardent, Die Nacht has the right feeling of unease, Allerseelen is eloquent without becoming mawkish, and I have seldom heard the ecstasy of Cacilie so uninhibitedly expressed—except by Lotte Lehmann on a very old 78rpm disc. In all of these Solti has persuaded the singer not to go slow unnecessarily, thus following the composer's intent. A still, poised account of Morgen lasts just three minutes—the singer took five minutes over it in her recording with Davis and the LSO! The lighter pieces have a delightful spontaneity.
The recording in both venues is well managed, except that the recording of the songs with piano (Walthamstow Assembly Hall) is a trifle hard. This is a pleasing pendant to the soprano's Marschallin, also to be heard on CD this month (see page 135).'