In celebration of Richard Strauss' 150th anniversary, baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Wolfram Rieger present a recital of 18 songs that represent an output of more than 200, written throughout this composer's long career. Strauss achieved his greatest fame from his operas Salome, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier, and orchestral tone poems, such as Don Juan, Ein Heldenleben, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, and Also Sprach Zarathustra. But his vocal music has been respected rather more than widely known, and somewhat less performed than the comparable art songs of his contemporaries, Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf. It could be said that Hampson performs a great service by bringing attention to this overlooked body of work, but if all things were equal, his CD should be appreciated for its varied expressions and artistic depth, and not just because it reawakens interest in Strauss' neglected songs. Once past the feeling that this is unknown music, many listeners will begin to feel a familiarity with Strauss' material, and recognize that many of his poets -- Heine, Rückert, Dehmel, and others -- were favored by other great composers. Furthermore, Strauss' extraordinary gift for expressive melodies and rich harmonies make these songs as satisfying and compelling as any lieder from the 19th century. However, it must be said that Hampson's deeply felt interpretations and Rieger's sympathetic accompaniment make this music especially communicative and memorable, and Deutsche Grammophon's exceptional recording gives both musicians an ideal platform to start a revival. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson