The lustrous voice of Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski graces the work of Richard Strauss on this album of his lieder. Isokoski is accompanied by Marita Viitasalo, her longtime accompanist who is a fine match. Isokoski's voice is full yet clean and cool; there is a crispness to her resonance. Her diction is always clear, as is exemplified in "Gute Morgen"; German is a natural match for her (though she does not pronounce her ending Es as a schwa, as is more commonly done). "Allerseelen" begins with a tender piano introduction, and one senses the directness of the soprano's intentions. This piece, as well as others like "Ständchen," reveals a need for more legato, for her delivery is slightly clipped. It is the vocal equivalent of hearing the piano play without the echo pedal. However, this could be the result of the recording quality, which does not have a lot of reverb. "Die Nacht" demonstrates Isokoski's connection to the text and emotions and shows off the subtlety of her phrasing. The same could be said for "Meinem Kinde," where one truly believes in the tenderness of a mother singing to her child. Isokoski's style is free of much scooping or ornamentation (as in "Zueignung"), but she gets to the core of the music: she seems to be singing from the heart. Many of these lieder are a perfect match for her tessitura, like "Die Georgine" and "Cäcilie," which sit so well in her voice, even though one can hear Isokoski's high notes thin out. The piano is understated but equally clean and elegant, or, when necessary, greatly playful as in "Guten Morgen…." Isokoski's interpretation of "Mein Herz ist stumm" is pure and beautiful, like glacier water, and her high voice here is truly lovely. The vocal control of "Befreit" is also noteworthy, and Isokoski's technique is absolutely solid. There are moments when hints of fire emerge, such as in "All mein' Gedanken" or "Die Georgine," an impassioned fire, and one cannot help but wish that Isokoski would push the emotional envelope more and explore those possibilities. Isokoski's interpretations on this album are, generally speaking, tasteful yet not novel. But good taste is often underestimated, and Isokoski is an artist of understatement and grace.
Richard Strauss: Lieder Review
by V. Vasan