Richard Strauss – Complete Songs Volume 3 [Andrew Kennedy & Roger Vignoles]

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Strauss
From op.10: Nichts; Die Zeitlose; Die Verschwiegenen
Lieder, Op.17 [complete]
From Op.19: Wozu noch, Mädchen, soll es frommen; Schön sind, doch kalt die Himmelssterne; Hoffen und wieder verzagen
From Op.21: Ach weh mir unglückhaftem Mann; Die Frauen sind oft fromm und still
From Op.27: Heimliche Aufforderung
Lieder, Op.32 [complete]
From Op.36: Für funfzehn Pfennige; Anbetung
From Op.48: Winterliebe; Winterweihe; Freundliche Vision

Andrew Kennedy (tenor) & Roger Vignoles (piano)

Recorded 24-26 July 2007 in All Saints Church, East Finchley, London


Reviewed by: Richard Nicholson

Reviewed: May 2008
CD No: HYPERION CDA67602
Duration: 63 minutes

Hyperion has a reputation for enterprising casting in its song recording projects. Here a young singer has been recruited, one already acknowledged as exceptionally gifted. Andrew Kennedy has been collecting golden opinions, indeed I heard him triumph in a boldly constructed and challenging recital in 2007. Taking on a programme of Richard Strauss is no sinecure, however.

Kennedy’s is a very English voice, reminiscent of Philip Langridge in having a rather watery quality at the top. There is not an enormous range of colour to provide spectacular contrasts within a song but it is clear from the three selections from Strauss’s first Lieder collection that he can respond evocatively to their diverse character: the impetuosity of ‘Nichts’, the pathos of ‘Die Zeitlose’ and the frustrated resentment of ‘Die Verschwiegenen’ are all given expression without this relatively modest music being overloaded.

Two groups of songs are performed in full. The Opus 17 collection is the source of that imperishable favourite ‘Ständchen’, here heard in the context of much less flamboyant songs. It is preceded by a piece of impassioned but contained lyricism in ‘Seitdem dein Aug’ in meines schaute’, in which Kennedy does not overdo the long operatic crescendo, and followed by ‘Das Geheimnis’, in which I would have preferred more in that department. Strauss had a notorious dislike for the tenor voice to balance against his adoration of the soprano. While he writes gratifying soaring lines for the latter, traps lie in wait for tenors in these songs: here the singer is surprised by a high A flat as early as the fourth bar. In both these songs I find Kennedy’s voice rather choppy. ‘Aus den Liedern der Trauer’ is the unappealing title of a song that uses the utmost economy of means to create its unsettling mood. Nevertheless, there is room for two aspects of instrumental painting in the piano part – of the emerging sun and of the sparkle of a distant star. Kennedy seems most at home in the restricted dynamic range of a song like this; he adds two appoggiaturas to the vocal line. ‘Nur Mut!’ has a Brahmsian flow: the rolling quavers are absent from not a single bar; to my ear the climactic phrase “glorreich noch des Himmels Blau” needs a dramatic tenor or, better still, a radiant soprano. The final ‘Barkarole’ depicts the expected tranquillity, though only in the final section “Fliege mein Kahn” does it settle into a re-assuring harmonic idiom. All trouble is suspended as the poet sinks back in contentment. No rest for the singer, though: the tessitura is frighteningly high. Kennedy doesn’t quite manage the sempre pp instruction but generally rises to the challenge. As for the crown jewel of the set, there is a hint of imperfect German from the singer (“auf” is not rounded enough – and nor is the same sound in the word “Augenblick” elsewhere) and he lacks the feathery lightness which many interpreters have bought to the poet’s summons. Roger Vignoles is as deft in his streams of cascading semiquavers as he is refulgent in the final apotheosis.

Lieder. Hyperion’s recording is ideally balanced and admirably clear in an intimate acoustic. The booklet includes texts and translations.

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