Thursday, 29 June 2017

An enchanting beginning: Louise Alder in songs by Richard Strauss

Louise Alder - Richard Strauss - Orchid Classics
Through Life and Love, songs by Richard Strauss; Louise Alder, Joseph Middleton; Orchard Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jun 27 2017
Star rating: 5.0

Having showed her metal as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, the young English soprano returns to Strauss for her debut disc

Louise Alder has had a busy Summer, singing Sophie in Olivia Fuchs new production of Der Rosenkavalier at Welsh National Opera (see my review) whilst simultaneously taking part in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World (where where she took the Audience Prize), plus of course the release of this disc of Richard Strauss's songs, accompanied by Joseph Middleton, on the Orchid Classics label. The songs selected come mainly from the 1890s, there are well known songs here such as Zueignung, Allerseelen and Heimliche Auufforderung along with many not so regularly performed. (the disc is released on 30 June 2017)

Louise Alder has very much a Sophie voice, a lyric soprano notable for its firmness of line, brightness and fluidity. In her introduction to the CD she talks about how she discovered Strauss's songs, via Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's recordings, at the age of 16 and that she jumped at the chance to record his songs for her debut disc. She sings with bright, forward tone and a lovely vibrant quality. This is combined with a deep feeling for the words so the songs really leap out at you.

The songs are not recorded chronologically but thematically making a satisfying progress from Youth: Das Mädchen, through Longing: Sehnsucht, Passions: Leidenschaft, Partnership: Liebe and Motherhood: Mutterschaft to Loss: Verlust and Release: Befreiung.

Throughout the songs I was impressed how Alder constantly combined the many lyrical beauties of her voice with vivid characterisation. words are always to the fore, as is a feeling for character and the distinctive tint of each song. Wisely she avoids the ones needing a more refulgent tone. There will be time to record those later. And what we get is an intelligent Sophie's-eye view of the songs. That is not to say that the performances are cool, songs like Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten are full of vibrant energy whilst there is quiet rapture in Das Rosenband and Die Nacht. And Strauss's more complex vocal lines, such as Muttertänderlei are given with an admirable sense of east. But it is the words that I come back to, the sense of great engagement which however never compromises the musical qualities of Alder's line.

Joseph Middleton is a superb partner bringing out the richness of Strauss's piano writing, and aptly complementing Alder. Strauss's accompaniments are very orchestral and Middleton really does explore their full range of colours and textures.

Rather frustratingly, there are no song texts, neither does Orchid Classics seem to offer them on line. Whilst Joanna Wyld's excellent booklet note gives details of dates and opus numbers for each song, the track listing does not which is again rather frustrating.

I do hope that Louise Alder records more Strauss songs, but this recital makes an enchanting beginning.


Richard Strauss (1864-1949) - 8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", Op. 10, TrV 141: No. 2, Nichts
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, Op. 39, TrV 189: No. 1, Leises Lied
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder, Op. 17, TrV 149: No. 2, Ständchen
Richard Strauss - 3 Lieder, Op. 29, TrV 172: No. 2, Schlagende Herzen
Richard Strauss - 4 Lieder, Op. 27, TrV 170: No. 3, Heimliche Aufforderung
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, Op. 32, TrV 174: No. 2, Sehnsucht
Richard Strauss - 8 Lieder, Op. 49, TrV 204: No. 1, Waldseligkeit
Richard Strauss - 8 Lieder, Op. 49, TrV 204: No. 8, Ach, was Kummer, Qual und Schmerzen
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder aus "Lotosblätter", Op. 19, TrV 152: No. 2, Breit über mein Haupt
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder aus "Lotosblätter", Op. 19, TrV 152: No. 4, Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten
Richard Strauss - 4 Lieder, Op. 36, TrV 186: No. 1, Das Rosenband
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, Op. 48, TrV 202: No. 2, Ich schwebe
Richard Strauss - 3 Lieder, Op. 29, TrV 172: No. 3, Nachtgang
Richard Strauss - 5 Kleine Lieder, Op. 69, TrV 237: No. 3, Einerlei
Richard Strauss - Rote Rosen, TrV 119
Richard Strauss - Gesänge älterer deutscher Dichter: No. 2, Muttertändelei
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder, Op. 37, TrV 187: No. 3, Meinem Kinde
Richard Strauss - 8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", Op. 10, TrV 141: No. 3, Die Nacht
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, Op. 39, TrV 189: No. 4, Befreit
Richard Strauss - 4 Lieder, Op. 27, TrV 170: No. 1, Ruhe, meine Seele
Richard Strauss - 8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", Op. 10, TrV 141: No. 1, Zueignung
Richard Strauss - Weihnachtsgefühl, TrV 198
8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", Op. 10, TrV 141: No. 8, Allerseelen
Louise Alder (soprano)
Joseph Middleton (piano)
Recorded at Potton Hall, 23-26 July 2016
ORCHARD CLASSICS ORC100072 1CD [64.48]
Available from Amazon (from 30 June 2017).

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