Strauss: Lieder (Gerard Souzay/Dalton Baldwin)



Strauss, though four years younger than Wolf; matured much earlier as a songwriter. Instead of combining music with Wagnerian drama Strauss used the simpler and more effective elements of popular theatre. His songs are not just heard but “scene”. He takes the Lied not only to act verbal ideas but also to direct them; poetry occupies a back seat while music holds the stage. This reissue offers some shining examples, such as the lighting effects of bright or muted progressions that illustrate tranced walking at dawn (as in Morgen, the prelude to which is the slowest curtain-raiser in the business) or at dusk (Die Nacht, Traum durch die Dämmerung). The stage effects include exits and entrances, complete with knocks the door (All mein Gedanken, Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann). Add to alt this the show-stopping melodies and the heart-stripping climaxes (Zueignung has both) and it becomes manifest that if theatre is what literature does at night:, then the nocturnal behaviour of German poetry can best be studied in the field of the Strauss Lied. Heimliche Aufforderung and Ständchen are ideal for that purpose. On this showing the piano part of the latter for example is not inessential decoration but essential décor; and as such it sounds rather wider-recorded to me. But in all the overtly expressive passages the balance as well as the sound seems entirely acceptable; and the whole repertory is presented by Souzay and Baldwin with exactly the right blend of Innigkeit and panache. The price is modest for continuous admission to so moving and brilliant a spectacle, which one can only applaud.


© gramophone, Oct. 1976 (p. 639-640)