The program for this album by the fine Dutch mezzo soprano Christianne Stotjin brings together works from the conservative, middling, and radical sides of the Austrian-German scene around the turn of the last century. The conservative is Hans Pfitzner, who was by his own testimony an anti-modernist. Yet the march of history was not something of much interest to composers at the time, and both of the other two composers, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, held Pfitzner in high regard. All of these composers drew on a common fund of poetry in their vocal works, and the moody Stimme der Sehnsucht -- voices of longing -- here have much in common and rest comfortably together in Stotjin's excellent recital. Her voice, which would seem to be coming toward its peak, is the main attraction. It's a lighter, brighter version of German operatic style, never too heavy for the material, but extremely dramatic, flowing like spoken utterances at all times. Perhaps her most striking achievement comes in the Kindertotenlieder (of Mahler, heard here in its version for voice and piano). Stotjin forges some very unconventional vocal texture in these prophetic songs about the deaths of children (Mahler's own daughter succumbed to scarlet fever after they were written, after which Mahler said he would never have been able to compose them knowing what he had later learned), delivering whole stretches in vibratoless bell tones and creating an uncanny combination of nostalgia and dread. A wonderful recital, although not a good choice as soundtrack to a garden party. There is a hidden track at the album's end that appropriately lifts the grim mood of the Mahler.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim