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 Interview, Louise Alder on Strauss Lieder

Louise Alder on Strauss LiederThe young British soprano Louise Alder has certainly had an action-packed and intense summer so far: in between performances of Sophie in Welsh National Opera's new Rosenkavalier (in which she was described as 'effervescent and intelligent' (The Times) and 'adorably ardent' (The Telegraph)), she made a fantastic impact in this year's Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, where she was a finalist in the Song Prize and won the Audience Prize in the main final with sparkling performances of arias from I puritani, Léhar's Giuditta and (in an innovative bit of programming) André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. A month later, she gave a superb last-minute recital at the Wigmore Hall when visa problems prevented another singer from appearing - the night after delivering a touching, feisty Marzelline in a concert-performance of Fidelio under Juanjo Mena at the BBC Proms.

We're very grateful to Louise for taking time out of her packed schedule to speak to us about her debut solo recording, Through Life and Love (out now on Orchid Classics), in which she and her regular pianist Joseph Middleton trace a narrative through some of Richard Strauss's most beautiful lieder - one of which featured in her programme for the Cardiff competition…

Strauss has played quite a significant role in your career to date: you’ve sung Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera, and Oper Frankfurt, and included him in both rounds of the Song Prize for Cardiff Singer. What’s special about his writing for you, and when did you first fall in love with it?

It is clear to me that Strauss passionately loved sopranos and knew how to write for them almost like no one else. His understanding of the voice, stretching it, challenging it and yet knowing its limitations is simply incredible. And woven within that and into the music, he wrote so much character. Singing Sophie and his Lieder comes easily to me because it seems he has already explained exactly what he wants, through his use of harmony and word-setting.

Which particular singers (or pianists, or conductors!) have inspired you the most in this music?

I absolutely love listening to Diana Damrau, Kiri te Kanawa, Renée Fleming and Felicity Lott singing this repertoire, I feel their lyrical but highly flexible voices suite the challenging melodic lines beautifully. They master the Straussian trick of making even the hardest leap or dynamic change sound effortless and part of the melody and character.

This recital weaves a lovely narrative from your selection of songs rather than sticking to Strauss’s own groupings, rather along the lines of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben - how did this idea come about, and did it introduce you to songs which you’d not come across before?

Joseph and I started by looking at the songs we had already performed and adding in ones we personally loved thereby making a wish list. Then I spent hours translating them, writing little blurbs for each song and looking at what would fit together. A story of love throughout life seemed so clear and I felt fascinated by exploring the theme of different loves, as at the age of 30, more and more seem to pop up that I didn't know existed...

You chose 'Heimliche Aufforderung' (included on this disc) for the final round of the Song Prize at Cardiff – what makes that particular song such a great competition-choice for you?

I just adore the song. The words are so descriptive, the romance in the music so strong and the secret invitation palpable, it is irresistable to me. I have a wonderful recording of Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch performing it which I have previously listened to over and over.

With several Sophies under your belt, are any other of Strauss’s operatic women on your immediate radar or long-term wish-list?

Not at the present: I have toyed with the idea of Zerbinetta, but I will continue to practise that privately before I inflict it on any ears in public... I would love to sing the larger lyrical repertoire at some point - Daphne, the Marschallin and the Countess [in Capriccio] - but I will very happily sing many many more years of Sophie first!

Louise Alder (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)

Through Life and Love was released on Orchid Classics in June, and has won praise for the 'lively intelligence and strong characterisation' (Gramophone), 'stunning purity of tone' (The Observer) and 'artless and affecting sincerity' (The Times) of Alder's singing.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

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