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Music Review: Damrau's Poesie has Organization Issues


Diana Damrau has a beautiful voice and has the talent to perform very difficult Strauss Orchestral lieders on her new album Poesie, but this recording is lacking organization. 

Damrau’s voice soars over the wonderful phrases that describe pastoral scenes or love filled verses.  The German opera singer has been tried and tested as she has performed many of Strauss’s lead-operatic roles.  Diana Damrau shows off her skill with this album that she obviously enjoyed singing. 

On the back cover of the disc, there is an asterisk next to some of the songs, denoting them as the “Complete Brentano Leider, Op 68.”  Upon further inspection, one can see that the second song in this cycle is the first track and the fifth song is on track eight.  In seemingly random order, this six-song cycle is interspersed with all other types of Strauss’s songs.

Needing an explanation for this oddity, the leaflet did not give any insight.  Though most of Strauss’s songs were published together for ease, and not as a song cycle; the Brentano-Lieders seems to break that mold.  Composed in 1918, they were all based on poems by Clemens Brentano and all intended for a single singer, Elizabeth Schumann.  The booklet goes on to describe that recordings of the complete Brentano-lieders are rare as the songs are technically difficult and evoke emotions that unusual for Strauss.

So, still wondering, Why not group the Opus 68 Complete Brentano-Lieder together?  I found the answer after a few tense minutes of Internet searching.  Whether it was Diana Damrau, Virgin Classics or some other producer, they were wrong to separate the Brentano-Lieders.  There are emotions of loss, love and longing that flow throughout the song cycle and there are motifs in the first song that pervade through the others. To get the full effect of what a wonderful piece of music Strauss’s Opus 68 is, you have to rip the CD, and spend a few minutes trying to get the lieders in the correct order, then enjoy.

Diana Damrau is has the perfect voice for Strauss and if the incorrect ordering of the songs had not been so distracting, this review would be completely describing the beauty of her voice.  Damrau provides a great recording of some very beautiful but difficult songs, and with a little hassle, you can listen to the rarely performed Brentano-Lieder in the correct order as well.