My only previous encounter with Teresa Cahill was an LP of Parry’s Ode on the Nativity, where, after an uncertain start, her luscious soprano was a great asset to an already dedicated performance under Sir David Willcocks. Alas, this is one of those Lyrita treasures that are apparently locked away for the duration. From her performance on that disc I was prepared to find her a natural Strauss soprano, and evidently others thought so too, for Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier (under Carlos Kleiber) figured prominently among the more than a hundred performances she gave at Covent Garden.
Operatic sopranos in lieder can be too much of a good thing, even in Strauss (this was certainly the case with Leontyne Price), but a Sophie will doubtless have a smaller voice than a Marschallin and Cahill seems to me quite ideal. She soars lustrously when she has to, but she also finds a wide range of colour in these songs. Note how she darkens her timbre for Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden, then immediately after she is light and prancing for Schlagende Herzen. Hear how she sinks into the last stanza of Heimkehr, her voice creamily floating over Roger Vignoles’ glowingly rich but never heavy accompaniment. Nor does she disappoint with the best-known songs; Ruhe, meine Seele rises from a chilling whisper to great dramatic power, Allerseelen is wistful as well as sumptuous and Cäcilie allows her to end the first part of the disc with a glorious outpouring and a golden-toned top C.
This was originally a Chandos record and the recording quality is as one might expect, though I thought the piano a little backwardly placed. What follows is taken from a broadcast and, the original tapes having been “lost” (I imagine this is a euphemism for “wiped clean as a housekeeping exercise”), a private tape has had to be used. Though Diversions apologise for the quality it really is not bad. I have an idea the original might have been even better than the Chandos recording since the piano is less backward and the acoustic warmer. As it is, the voice is generally well caught – the words are actually clearer – while the piano sounds a little wonky at times, but after the initial adjustment I forgot about it, for here are more vintage performances. Rachmaninov gains as much as Strauss from Cahill’s lustrous line and range of characterisation – she penetrates the melancholy behind even the Pied Piper as surely as she realized the homely warmth of Strauss – and Vignoles shows much superior pianism, for Rachmaninov expects the pianist to orchestrate and tier his contrapuntal lines just as much as in his solo pieces, and not all “accompanists” can do this; of course, Vignoles is not “just” an accompanist, he is a pianist and a musician as well. The last three Strauss songs in this very well filled disc duplicate the first three. Differences are small – I would say the interpretations remain the same – but tiny changes of emphasis show Cahill to have been a spontaneous artist.
Here, then, is Strauss and Rachmaninov singing such as would surely have warmed both composers’ hearts. I put the disc on in the middle of a busy day intending to sample one or two, and heard it right to the end. It would be nice to think more is to come. Does a “Four Last Songs” exist in any form? And might a Schubert recital, or a Frauenliebe und Leben, exist in the BBC archives or someone’s taping of a broadcast? Surely she must have broadcast some English songs, too.
Excellent presentation, with notes on the music, singer and pianist, and original texts with English translations. Glorious singing from an unjustly semi-forgotten artist. Recommended with great enthusiasm.