Sabine Devieilhe & Mathieu Pordoy in Mozart and Richard Strauss

My disc of the year so far: may it be bedecked with awards

Sabine Devieilhe & Mathieu Pordoy in Mozart and Richard Strauss

This simply magical vocal recital, perfectly programmed and performed with a superb sense of style for both composers, is surely destined for awards galore. Everything about it is right: singer and pianist are perfectly matched, the recording is spot-on.

Eight songs by Mozart; 14 by Strauss, deftly and carefully intertwined. We start with Mozart, Komm, liebe Zither, komm (K 351), a daring choice given the way Mozart ensures voice and piano are both so exposed. It seems perfectly complemented by Strauss' Die Nacht, Op. 10/3 (TrV 141/3, from the eight Gedichte aus “Letzte Blätter”) :

Photo © Edouard Brane

It is great to see Vilde Frang as guest, a violinist we have met several times on Classical Explorer (although most recently I heard her in the Greater Bay Area of China in Mozart, here we have reported on her in Berlin with the Berliner Philharmoniker in Bartók's First Violin Concerto and at the Barbican with a touring Bayerisches Staatsorchester in the Berg Violin Concerto, and on disc in Beethoven and Stravinsky Violin Concertos). Here she plays the obbligato violin part in the iconic Strauss song Morgen!. Its placement is significant as well, matching the previous Meinem Kinde, a lullaby, so well. It takes a lot to erase memories of Jessye Norman in Morgen! (or Elisabeth Schwarzkopf for that matter), but Deveilhe, Pordoy and Frang somehow manage it. Let's hear those two songs next to each other:

As a point of interest, Devieilhe has recorded Morgen with cello (Christian-Pierre La Marca) and piano (Nathanaël Gouin), also for Erato, on a disc entitled Wonderful World:

Even more clever is to place Mozart's An die Einsamkeit, K 391, next. One of Mozart's most interior songs, ts opening gesture could easily be from Strauss; rarely has Mozart's indfluence on Strauss been so clear.

The impression is that neither Mozart nor Strauss could write a bad song; and that each invidicual song is unique. Schlagende Herzen (Richard Strauss, the second of three songs, Op. 29/ TV 172: the documentation only uses Trenner numbers) is a case in point, merging here as a little parcel of perfection; and how light is Mathieu Pordoy's touch. Devieilhe's voice glints in reaction to the piano's disjunct intervals:

While a lot of the recital focuses on alternation of Strauss and Mozart, there is one complete set of songs by Srauss here: the four Mädchenblumen, TrV 153, aka Op. 22. The second is probably the most famous, “Mohnblumen”

Roger Vignoles' notes for the Hyperion release featuring these songs is nicely balanced; yes, they are comparatively neglected but how beautiful the fragile, ephemeral final “Wasserrose” with its sense of mystery around the question “Kennst du die Blume?” (Do you know the flower ...). Perhaps there is a culturally embedded link in Felix Donhn's text to the famous “Kennst du Das Land?”. Anyway, Devieilhe and Pordoy are absolutely transfixing:

The move to one often most famous Mozart songs is magical: Das Veilchen (The Violet), K 476, begun with gorgeous simplicity and yet later holding a proto-Schubertian sense of drama:

The shift from Mozart to Richard Strauss' Allerseelen is perfect, far more than just a bridge to three of the songs from a set of five, Op. 48/TrV 202. But the great discovery here was “Ich schwebe” (Op. 48/2); “I float,” says the text, “as if on angel's wings,” and that's exactly what it sounds like here:

Quite right to give Mozart the final word: Abendempfindung K 523 (Evening Thoughts), ideal in its supposed simplicity:

Although live I found Devieilhe ceded to Nathalie Dessay in the role of Marie Fille du Régiment when I heard her at Covent Garden in 2019, this disc certainly persuades me of her stature; and her Queen of the Night Zauberflöte in 2017, again at Covent Garden, was certainly unforgettable.

Detailed notes by Richard Stokes, but I do feel a paragraph break in the first page somewhere would have helped ... full texts and translations, though, and there is no doubt that this is my disc of the year so far. May it be bedecked with awards.

"X" image © Edouard Brane.

Here's a link to the Amazon listing. Spotify below.

Also, here's the Amazon link to the alternative Morgen!.