Traditionally, the composerís Vier letzte Lieder and the set of Neun Lieder, op. 10, have been associated with female voices, even though Strauss did not assign a gender to those pieces. For a male singer to confront this tradition may be regarded by some as a risk. Yet the deft touch and nuanced coloring that is part of many fine performances are found in the performances of Jarnot and Deutsch on this CD.
This recording opens with the familiar Strauss song, ìZueignungî (op. 10, no. 1), and it is clear from the start that this music fits Jarnotís supple baritone voice. He approaches this song with a rich, sweet sound that is approach to Straussís setting of the text by Hermann von Gilm, and the recurring phrase ìHabe Dankî is connected well to the lines that precede it. Jarnot gives appropriate vigor and energy to the second song, ìNichts,î and shows restraint in his interpretation of the following one, ìDie Nacht.î In the last song, Jarnot demonstrates his ability to sustain the long phrases that are part of much of Straussís vocal music, not only in the Lieder, but also in the operas. In giving full measure to the longer phrases found in that piece and others in this set, Jarnot uses a resonant, ringing tone that fits the style of the music quite naturally. While some of the lighter aspects of Jarnotís baritone voice are apparent in his recent recording of Mahlerís Lieder, it is in these works by Strauss that shows some of the fuller sounds that he can produce, as in ìDie Georgine.î This recording is notable for its inclusion of ìWer hatís getan?î, a song that Strauss withdrew from the op. 10 set when it was published. While the song has been recorded before, it works well for Jarnotís voice.
His approach to the Vier Lieder, op. 27 is similarly effective. ìRuhe, meine Seele! (op. 27, no. 1) is notable for the perceptive interpretation that Jarnot contributes to this song and the others in the set. ìC‰cilieî benefits from an aggressive approach, and Jarnot conveys the text particularly well, especially in those passages that are almost employ declamatory style. The ringing tone he brings to this song and ìHeimlisches Aufforderungî is welcome, since this music demands the vigor he brings to these songs.
Of the music on this recording, perhaps the known best are the Vier letzte Lieder, which are usually performed by a female singer and often with orchestral accompaniment. Given the current performance tradition that includes memorable recordings by such outstanding interpreters as Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Jessye Norman, Renee Fleming, and other women, Jarnotís decision to sing these pieces ñ as a baritone and with piano accompaniment ñ calls attention to the timbre associated with this work. From the outset, the deeper voice type is apparent, and Jarnotís sensitivity to the character of the music in this set is clearly present in ìFr¸hling,î a piece that requires the attention he has given to its details. Jarmpt colors his voice appropriately in the second song, ìSeptember,î to allow the text to emerge persuasively. Throughout that song and the others in the set Deutschís accompaniment is notable for being present without overtaking the performance. The fuller textures that sometimes occur are played in context. In some extended passages, as in ìBeim Schlafengehen,î Deutsch takes the lead so that the full-voiced piano and the extroverted baritone timbre create a memorable performance. In this song and the final one of the set, ìIm Abendrot,î Jarnot and Deutsch are at their best. The extended vocal line in ìIm Abendrotî that is, at times, punctuated by figures in the accompaniment demonstrates how these songs can work well with piano.
With the Vier letzte Lieder and the other selections on this recording, Jarnot offers some fine performances of Strauss. Whether he chooses Lieder traditionally associated with womenís voices is immaterial when he can bring a fine interpretation to the music. Jarnotís approach to Strauss is sound and would be effective with many other selections from the composerís oeuvre. Some would debate this choice, but the finesse he brings to the recording is laudable. In fact the notes that accompany the CD include the baritoneís comments about the selections:

. . . I am very interested in recording music I have a real opinion about. I think that the Four Last Songs can gain more meaning through a performance with a deep masculine voice. . . . I sing the Four Last Songs because I love them and because I think that the result can be a good one. . . .

Jarnotís comments suggest something crucial to effective performances: the stake the musicians have in pursuing music that truly moves them. His passion for Strauss emerges in this effective recording and reveals something about his own artistic disposition.
This is fine recording of Lieder from various parts of Straussís career merits attention, and those who enjoy this repertoire should appreciate Jarnotís presentation of the music. The sound is nicely balanced and serves the music well. Those who enjoy Straussís Lieder should find much of interest in this recording, which represents yet another excellent contribution by the young baritone Conrad Jarnot.
James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

image_description=Richard Strauss: Lieder
product_title=Richard Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder, Vier Lieder, op. 27, and Neun Lieder, op. 10.
product_by=Konrad Jarnot, baritone, Helmut Deutsch, piano.
product_id=Oehms Classics OC 518 [CD]