STRAUSS Lieder – Isokoski
Strauss singing doesn’t come much better than this. I suspect that the composer himself‚ with his love of the soprano voice‚ would have been enthralled by Isokoski’s glorious singing. He might also have approved of Janowski’s straightforward‚ quite brisk conducting as he was never one to sentimentalise his own music. The Finnish soprano has already delighted Covent Garden audiences with her faultless singing of Fiordiligi‚ Ma·enka and Eva. Here she brings her gifts of sheer beauty of sound combined with a quite unaffected approach to pieces that have suffered enough in their time from overinterpretation.
With a combination of free‚ unfettered tone‚ not a hint of strain in highlying passages‚ a fine legato and an amazingly long breath‚ she fulfils every demand of her chosen songs. To those attributes she adds just a hint of quick vibrato‚ which she uses unerringly to expressive purpose throughout. Add the depth of feeling she brings to inwardly emotional pieces such as Befreit‚ Ruhe meine Seele! and‚ above all‚ Morgen!‚ a perfect realisation of this oftrecorded piece‚ and you have performances to rival any of the greats of the past. I eagerly await Isokoski’s Marschallin.
She reminds me most of Lisa della Casa‚ the first soprano to record the Four Last Songs‚ with Böhm (a conductor in the Janowski mould)‚ and Sena Jurinac (with Fritz Busch‚ ditto). She has the same smiling timbre‚ the same natural style‚ the same avoidance of wallowing in music that contains its own proportion of sentiment. Try the ecstatic execution of the final verse of ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ and I am sure you will share my enthusiasm for this‚ much the most eloquent of recent interpretations. If‚ on the other hand‚ you prefer a more leisurely approach‚ there are always Janowitz and Karajan.
Janowski is obviously at one with his soprano‚ not only here but also in Zueignung‚ which benefits from a faster than usual tempo‚ a hackneyed song rethought. In the lighter songs‚ the two provide a sense of airy freedom – just right. Refined and transparent playing from the Berlin Radio Symphony and an open recording complete pleasure in this highly recommended collection from a treasurable singer.