Emma Bell - Songs by Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter and Joseph Marx - International Record Review

Emma Bell, a bright young British success story, has made her name largely so far in operatic music earlier than the Romantic Germans she has chosen for her first solo recording. But this soprano sounds born to pick her way through the often wordy and elaborate settings of Richard Strauss, making an especial success of the frequent and tricky mood shifts of the Op. 22 'Mädchenblumen' set. Moreover, this is an exceptionally well-chosen programme. Someone deserves an Oscar for suggesting the nine Bruno Walter songs: no mere curios because they come from the pen of a famous conductor, but little gems in their own right, and especially suitable as both hors-d'oeuvres and dessert to the main programme. Not that there is anything light or easy about the final group, in which Bell, the voice truly 'on', really lets fly in the closing 'Liebeslust' with its probably deliberate echo in the accompaniment of the riding motif of 'Erlkönig'. And the idea of beginning a recital with three songs, each called 'Tragedy', is a sharp one too.

An underlying strength of this recital is that both Bell and her accomplished accompanist go at the music with all the feel of a 'live' concert: if these are not all first - or single take performances, they certainly feel like them. [This is] a disc that should be snapped up by all those who have enjoyed Bell in the theatre or who relish an original programme and some novel looks at the early twentieth-century Lied repertoire. Linn's production and presentation do the artists justice.

04 October 2004