Emma Bell - Songs by Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter and Joseph Marx - BBC Music Magazine

In a market where most bright young singers come ready-wrapped in thoroughly familiar material, this intelligent release should appeal to lovers of rarer German song as well as admirers of a fine new soprano on the scene. Not that the Leider of Joseoh Marx and full-time conductor, part-time composer Bruno Walter make much of a departure from the Straussian mainstream. They do allow Emma Bell to display her solid, if not ideally luminous, upper register and her more ardent phrasing.

This is no fledgling recital disc; Bell strides forth, firmly supported by clear, bright recording, with a clear understanding of the texts and a bronzed vocal timbre which, since we're talking mostly Strauss, is more Marschallin than Sophie and should make her a fine Ariadne in time (only a handful of flourishes remind us that she is also an accomplished exponent of Handelian ornamentation). This is fine for the assured lines of 'Das Rosenband' and 'Traum durch die dämmerung'; but three of the four Mädchenblumen call for a lighter touch, and she makes rather heavy weather of the obligatory sprightlier numbers (I rather like the scary mother-hen of 'Muttertandelei'). Here, too, Andrew West's spruce piano-playing veers shy of bravura, though he proves ideally supportive elsewhere. The notes leave us wanting to know more about when, and why, Walter set his chosen texts.

06 December 2004