This is Lise Davidsen’s debut album, and it gives an accurate idea of what all the fuss is about. She is already being spoken of in the same breath as Kirsten Flagstad, and Davidsen’s fans can only hope that her artistry will not be compromised by high expectations, because her voice is exceptional.
The programme is Wagner and Strauss – this year she sings Elisabeth at Bayreuth and she has already performed Ariadne at Glyndebourne – and it shows off her tireless breath control, a top sound carried by a supple and gleaming intensity, and a broad range that is particularly lovely in her mezzo voice. The power she brings to the long arches of “Sei mir gegrüsst!” in Tannhäuser’s ‘Dich, teure Halle’ is hair-raising, and the inwardness she retires into for the same opera’s ‘Allmächt’ge Jungfrau’ casts a dark spell. The climax of Ariadne’s ‘Es gibt ein Reich’ takes no prisoners, and it arrives via intelligently judged pace and volume.
Davidsen’s Strauss selection is the core of this recital, and she includes a beautifully muted ‘Morgen!’ and a searing ‘Ruhe, meine Seele!’, along with an elegantly shaped ‘Malven’, another Last Song, in which the discernment of her phrasing is profoundly musical. There were, however, quite a few occasions – and on different sound systems – when I found myself trying to reconcile the edge of her voice to the overall spirit of the material, and it is the physicality of her soprano that gets in the way of any marked out-of-body rapture in the Four Last Songs themselves, not helped by a surprisingly reticent and generic role from the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen. This is a pity, because they are on luminous form in the Tannhäuser and Ariadne excerpts, and the violin solos in ‘Morgen!’ and ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ are completely in character.
This is a top-of-the-range work-in-progress release and I look forward to hearing what this outstanding artist will do next. The booklet includes texts and translations.