'Wise men have told us that Strauss loved sopranos and looked down on tenors - but here comes a recital by the lower male voice seriously to challenge that belief. Hyperion is an old hand at programming attractively playable discs that make up complete Lied editions … Vignoles's playing continues to achieve a maximum of freshness and invention and a chameleon-like closeness to his singer's tone and line. Kennedy's voice is young, sweet, fluent and has what some commentators call "sap" … The readings attain a consistently high standard of beautiful music-making' (Gramophone)
'The third volume of Hyperion’s Strauss song series comes with a tenor riding the chromatic waves. Kennedy’s young voice still has some growing to do in lieder, but his flexible tones and avoidance of the Precious Beautiful Voice give lots of pleasure. Roger Vignoles’s piano accompaniments are superb' (The Times)
'There's no doubt about it now. For anyone who cares about lieder and the music of Richard Strauss this is one of the most significant recording projects in the current catalogue. Thanks to Roger Vignoles it's also shaping up to be one of the best … How good it is to hear a male voice singing 'Ständchen' with youthful ardour and warm, rounded tone … Kennedy has that rare gift among singers of making a song unfold almost conversationally. Not that he eschews the grand manner when it's required … As for Vignoles, just listen to the final bars of 'Winterweihe'. It's a taste of heaven - literally so and pianistically. How I long for the next instalment of this noble project' (International Record Review)
'Kennedy's offering is welcome indeed … His range, in terms of pitch and expression, sounds terrific and the quality of his enthusiasm is infectious. The songs themselves are a joy and Vignoles's accompaniment nearly creates the illusion of an entire orchestra' (Classic FM Magazine)
'Here at last is a tenor for Richard Strauss … Andrew Kennedy is an eager, bright-eyed lover: the bloom and the tenderness of the middle range of his voice, in particular, know just how to bring a luxuriant, Straussian intimacy t a song such as 'Seitdem dein Aug' in meines Schaute'. Kennedy seems to bond particularly well, too, with Strauss's songs of sadness: the indeterminate harmonies and half-lights of 'Aus den Liedern der Trauer' and the stark ardour of 'Sehnsucht' are impressive … This recital shows glimpses of a future operatic Straussian to watch for' (BBC Music Magazine)
'Andrew Kennedy … gives consistent pleasure with his sweet, sappy tone, free-ringing high notes and keen characterisation. Roger Vignoles's playing is as colourful and eloquent as his booklet notes' (Daily Telegraph)
'Kennedy’s…singing is fervent and he breathes life into these songs without overwhelming them…Kennedy’s bottom is secure and his middle range is warm and lustrous…when he employs his soft upper range head voice, the tenderness of his singing is sublime…Vignoles again proves to be the worthy collaborator' (American Record Guide)
'Andrew Kennedy’s tenor is a wonderfully mellifluous, lightly timbred (not lightweight) voice…very accomplished singing' (Fanfare, USA)
The third instalment in Hyperion's edition of Lieder by Richard Strauss is the first to employ a male singer and, in tenor Andrew Kennedy, Roger Vignoles has picked one of Britain's finest young singers … A fine achievement and an essential addition to any Straussian's or song-lover's collection. Throughout this disc, as with the previous ones, I was reminded simply of how abundant Strauss's melodic gift was; if in this personal and subjective genre he occasionally let himself get carried away, there's so much fine music that it's difficult not to get swept along' (Musicweb.com)
Ich trage meine Minne [2'15]
O süßer Mai! [1'35]
Hyperion’s Strauss Lieder series is fast becoming a worthy successor to the seminal Schubert and Schumann Lieder sets on the label. This third volume features the brilliant young British tenor Andrew Kennedy, whose performances in concert, in operas and on disc have received the highest praise. Hearing Strauss’s songs sung by a tenor is a wonderful and rare experience, and brings a different colour to even the most well-known songs on this disc. This recording fills in some of the gaps left by the first two volumes. Together with them it completes the eights songs of Opus 10, the six songs of Opus 19 and the five songs of Schlichte Weisen Op 21. It also presents two groups, Opus 17 and 32, complete as originally published, and it ends with three songs from Opus 48. Altogether the selection covers the eighteen years from 1882 to 1900, during which Strauss composed all his major tone poems. Roger Vignoles performs with his usual matchless musicianship and provides the extensive booklet notes.
Other recommended albums
When contemplating the songs of Richard Strauss it always comes as a surprise how early in his career most of them were written. The songs in this volume were all composed between 1882 and 1900, at which date his first successful opera, Salome, was still five years in the future. However, he had by then composed all the great tone poems, which together with the songs could be seen as the laboratory in which Strauss developed the techniques that would later serve him so well as an opera composer.
There is no doubt that the same qualities that endear him to the opera-going public—lyricism, harmonic richness and vocal allure—are those which have found most favour in his songs. And yet, in between the undoubted hits are many songs that deserve to rank as far more than undiscovered trifles, as should be evident from the present selection, which fills in some of the gaps left by the first two volumes. Heard together, they give a far broader picture of Strauss as a Lieder-composer than would be gleaned from most recital programmes, which tend to relegate him to the status of dessert—the Sachertorte and Schlag, so to speak—designed to send the audience home replete and happy.
What for instance could prepare one for the bleak landscape of Sehnsucht or the enigmatic brooding of Aus den Liedern der Trauer? Then there is the grandly conceived paean of Anbetung—not quite in the first rank, but glorious for all that—and the exhortatory sweep of Nur Mut!. In some of the more intimate songs Strauss hits an unexpected vein of tenderness that is rare in the Lieder repertoire. In each case it involves a particular view of girlhood or womanhood—Das Geheimnis, Wozu noch, Mädchen, Die Frauen sind oft fromm und still.
A similar tenderness can be found in Himmelsboten, the gently humorous dawn serenade from Des Knaben Wunderhorn with which Strauss brings the five songs of Opus 32 to a close. This group is recorded complete, as are the six songs of Opus 17, which include the justifiably famous Ständchen. It is illuminating to hear this song in the company of the five other settings of von Schack that surround it. Coming between Seitdem dein Aug’ in meines schaute and Das Geheimnis it seems less of a showstopper, more part of an ongoing narrative, with echoes of its piano figuration re-emerging in the glittering oar-strokes of the final Barkarole.
Many listeners will only be familiar with Strauss songs as sung by sopranos. This is not surprising, given the obvious affinity Strauss had for the female voice, and the extraordinary allure with which he was able to clothe it. And yet to hear a song like Ständchen sung by a tenor gives it a different import. For obvious reasons of gender, it brings the song closer to the message of the poem and further from the kind of meretricious display into which Strauss and his interpreters can sometimes fall.
In the pantheon of Lieder composers Richard Strauss, like Gustav Mahler, is often placed somewhat apart from the big four—Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Hugo Wolf. He is charged with poor literary taste—but so can Brahms be, who like him set the poets of his time as he found them—and with facile brilliance. Strauss himself admitted to pot-boiling from time to time, and there are other occasions, such as Anbetung, when the sheer size of the conception seems to overflow the bounds of the Lied proper. And yet the way he goes about inflecting the text and infusing it with poetic meaning is squarely in the tradition of his great predecessors and at its best is a fair match for their genius.
Roger Vignoles © 2008
Other albums in this series
Strauss: The Complete Songs, Vol. 6 – Elizabeth Watts
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads availableCDA67844