Lucy Crowe & Anna Tilbrook - Longing. Lieder by Strauss, Berg, Schoenberg - BBC Music Magazine

Performance: 4*
Recording: 4*

Lucy Crowe recorded this programme in three tranches spread over ten months, including last year’s summer interlude between pandemic lockdowns when, as her booklet note says, ‘the world was silent’. Her close-to-flawless technical security remains a constant throughout, and her voice now offers a wide range of colours and options besides the lovely bell-like purity with which she made her name.

Crowe’s choice of Richard Strauss items is placed here in three groups, interleaved by Berg’s Seven Early Songs and some welcome and much less familiar early Lieder by Schoenberg. Her affinity with the range of moods of the younger Strauss’s songs is natural and engaging; highlights include the wonderful sense of flight and freedom she finds in ‘Ständchen’ (Serenade) and the rapt stillness of ‘Die Nacht’ (Night), sealed by a beautifully floated top G. Both here and in Schoenberg’s Op. 2 set of Lieder, there’s also a tendency to deploy non-vibrato tone perhaps a shade too often, while the over-ripe richness of the younger Berg’s idiom doesn’t fully come across.

Any such reservations are blown away by the emotional charge in Crowe’s delivery of Strauss’s Four Last Songs, where her colouring of individual notes and syllables mesmerises the ear as much as her rapturous command of the music’s long phrases. Anna Tilbrook’s accompanying skills, too, conjure sounds that ensure there’s no feeling of being short-changed without the glowing orchestration of Strauss’s original score.

BBC Music Magazine
01 October 2021