Following her album of Strauss songs with orchestra, soprano Diana Damrau – described by France’s Classica as “first and foremost a liedersängerin” and by The Times as “gifted in projecting drama and emotion … a peach of a singer”– turns to songs by Liszt in the company of distinguished pianist Helmut Deutsch.
Reviewing her Strauss recital, Classica went on to praise Damrau’s “sensitivity to words and capacity to sculpt the vocal line and adjust the intensity of the breath,” her “timbre of substance and constant desire to bring the text alive”, observing that “Damrau projects her text and finds a suitable colour behind each syllable”. Diapason, meanwhile, awarded the CD a Diapason d’Or and observed that: “More songs are waiting for a visit from this angel.”
In choosing to visit Liszt’s songs, the German soprano is venturing into repertoire that, perhaps surprisingly, remains for the most part outside the mainstream of recital programming. Over a period of 45 years Liszt wrote 70 or so songs, making two or more versions of over a third of them. Damrau’s collection includes his most frequently heard songs, written to German and Italian texts by, among others, Goethe, Heine, Petrarch and Hugo. They include the three demanding and exalted Sonetti del Petrarca, the haunting fairytale ‘Die Loreley’, the evocative ‘Die drei Zigeuner’ (which reminds us of Liszt’s Hungarian blood), and the lyrical, wistful ‘O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst, which was to become a ‘greatest hit’ for the composer in its adaptation for solo piano – Liebestraum No 3.
Diana Damrau’s particular chemistry as a recitalist was summarised by The Guardian in a five star-rated review after she appeared at London’s Wigmore Hall: “She is very much a diva, with all the intimations of greatness and excess the word implies. Her artistry is phenomenal yet paradoxical: you could perhaps describe her as the Meryl Streep of classical music, since she achieves a sense of total immersion in her material without ever quite letting you forget the powers of technique, intelligence and calculation that inform her singing.”