Richard Strauss composed a career total of more than two hundred songs, most of them for a high female voice. The master repeatedly was inspired by sopranos, and the fact that he married one of these ladies, Pauline de Ahna, is proof of his intimate association with this wonderful art. Maria Bengtsson’s fine selection from all his compositional periods demonstrates the versatility of Straussian composition, and in Sarah Tysman she has a piano partner whose subtle interpretations far transcend mere accompaniment.
Commenting, illustrating, harmonizing – Strauss indeed assigns very important tasks to the piano. In “Morgen!” it is more the case that the voice accompanies the piano; thunder and storm are experienced in “Schlechtes Wetter”; and in “Ständchen” we can even feel the youth’s jittery nerves. The writer’s shout verging on bitonality at the end of “Für funfzehn Pfennige” shows what undiscovered possibilities lie in store in traditional harmony; of course, until the end of his long life Strauss rejected all atonal advances.
The mastery with which Strauss leads the human voice never fails to overwhelm us. However, he does not at all make things easy for the women singers: grand leaps, long melody lines, broad dynamic developments, and extreme highs and lows never function merely for their own sake but instead are vital to the profound interpretation of the text. The fact that Strauss occasionally lends the poet a helping hand is an entirely different musical matter.
Maria Bengtsson meets these challenges with the natural magnificence of a virtuoso also schooled on Strauss’s theatrical oeuvre. And her teamwork with Sarah Tysman can be experienced in impressive transparency above all in the three-dimensional reproduction of this meticulously produced Super Audio CD. Dyed-in-the-wool song fans – and not only them – will just love these performances!