Don Juan, Op.20
Die Heiligen drei Könige, Op.56/6
Das Rosenband, Op.36/1
Meinem Kinde, Op.37/3
Anne Schwanewilms (soprano)
Recorded in BBC Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester in July and September 2004
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2005
CD No: HALLÉ CD HLL 7508
Duration: 68 minutes
An energised Don Juan begins this CD, one not launched ideally (the timpani tattoo is rather backward and there’s a moment of unconvincing halting emphasis), but the Hallé’s absolute commitment and Mark Elder’s painstaking concern for blending and detailing make this a compelling ride. The expressive and transparent string playing – with antiphonal violins (which Strauss would have written for) adding to the clarity – and an amorous oboe solo are among the memorable features of this lively, glinting and sonorous account that also sustains the love music with intensity and feeling. Elder’s elongation of the final two notes raises an eyebrow: interesting though.
If only the recording was a little more substantial; it is detailed and spacious enough, but the strings need more body and the highest frequencies are a little too bright. Similarly in the seven selected Lieder, the acoustic can be too ambient, the textures rather glassy. The actual renditions are first-class, though, with Elder elucidating details rarely heard and investing an appropriate theatrical import. Anne Schwanewilms has complete identity with this music and is penetrative rather than glossy – to the greater depth and potential of the music. Favourites such as “Wiegenlied” and “Morgen!” are included, although “Das Rosenband” is a glorious creation, too, ravishing in fact, and is here given with poise and wonderment, Elder teasing out all of Strauss’s microscopic decoration. Tonally, the recording isn’t faultless, but how good to report a natural balance between singer and orchestra; no ego here.
Macbeth actually pre-dated Don Juan. It’s a young man’s work in terms of precocity and Elder isn’t embarrassed to give it with eagerness, ardour and, indeed, melodrama. Affection, too, and clearly enjoying the music’s kinship with Elgar. A handsome collection, then, enhanced by Michael Kennedy’s booklet note and the inclusion of song texts and translations.