Janet Baker: Brahms, Wagner, Strauss


In 1849 Richard Wagner had to flee Saxony: he was a wanted man because of his role in the May Uprising in Dresden, the last of the 1848 revolutions happening in Europe. He and his wife Minna found a hiding place on the estate of the family Wesendonck. The matter might have disagreed with the lord of the house, because Wagner was carrying on with his wife Mathilde. He attributed a small collection of five songs to her: the Wesendonck Lieder.

I think Janet Baker is a bit too American for many roles in the European romantic Lied. She’s just a bit too much for Fauré, Debussy and even Mahler. I think her voice lacks the subtlety those composers need. But for Wagner she’s perfect. Her strong voice is exactly what this dramatic composer needs. Also for Strauss she’s very good, those composers are a bit related in style. The alto rhapsody could not have been better performed than by this vocal cannon. So yes, all in all a good performance. Recommended, if you can find it.

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