Richard Strauss: 4 Lieder, Op. 27, TrV 170 (text by J.H. Mackay)
No. 3. Heimliche Aufforderung
No. 4. Morgen
Richard Strauss: 5 Lieder, Op. 39, TrV 189 (text by R. Dehmel)
5 Lieder, Op. 39, TrV 189: No. 4. Befreit
“Although recorded on three separate occasions, and with different accompanists, this programme is fairly typical of the recitals that Dame Janet gave in the late 1960s and early 70s when she was at the absolute peak of her form. She probably wouldn't have opened with the Haydn, reserving it usually as the final item in the first half, an operatic climax to work towards. She recorded it later with Raymond Leppard, but this live version has a wonderful sense of intimacy. The recording is first rate, with marvellous presence; Baker has that ability to invest a simple phrase in the first recitative such as 'la face splenda del nostro amor' with unforgettable poignancy. In the second part, as Ariadne rails against her fate, she allows herself an almost verismo–like outburst at 'ei qui lascia in abbandono'. This cantata can sometimes seem a bit heavyweight on a recital programme, but as Baker sings it seems to grows in beauty and intensity. Frauenliebe und –leben was the work that brought Baker early fame as a recording artist, in her recital for Saga. Later she recorded it again for EMI with Barenboim. This recording from 1968, accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons, finds her in luxurious full voice, revelling in each successive melody. It isn't preferable to the earlier Saga version with Isepp, but here she lets herself go more at certain key moments such as 'O lass im Traüme' in the third song. This cycle belonged to Janet Baker, and with the single exception of Sena Jurinac, there just isn't a singer to equal her in it. The songs recorded in the studio with Paul Hamburger include two by Wolf, not available anywhere else in Baker's discography. 'Geh' Geliebter' is sung with typical ardour. The two Schubert and Schumann songs are fresh and lively, but it's the Strauss group that has the highest voltage. Heimliche Aufforderung doesn't really suit her, with its intoxicated ardour, but Morgen is a superb example of that hushed, rapt quality that was one of the characteristic joys of Baker's art. The final song, Befreit, achieves a dramatic thrust that suggests the theatre in the best possible sense. Admirers who already possess Baker's other versions of this material shouldn't be deterred – this is a splendid souvenir of her in the full glory of her prime. Newcomers to Baker's singing – there can't be many people under 30 who heard her live – are in for a treat.”
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