Coming from a household filled with lush baroque music as a child, I found Strauss a little later in my musical journey and vividly remember how hard I fell in love with a recording of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing Vier Letze Lieder, aged about 16. I couldn’t believe from the beginning of the first song it could possibly get any more ecstatic and full of emotion, and yet it did. It was a short step from there to Strauss opera for me, and with the birth of YouTube I sat until the early hours of many a morning in my tiny room at Edinburgh University, listening to, watching and obsessing over Der Rosenkavalier’s final trio and presentation of the rose. So when Glyndebourne Festival Opera asked me to cover Sophie in Richard Jones’ new production of Der Rosenkavalier in 2014, I leapt at the chance, even though at that stage I had only sung a relatively small handful of Strauss songs while a master’s student at the Royal College of Music. And as luck would have it, and every cover’s dream, I was offered the chance to jump in and sing the BBC Proms performance that year.
That evening I made my Glyndebourne, role, BBC Proms, London Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Radio 3 débuts simultaneously and it was during the final trio looking out to the packed audience full of friends and family, and to the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in my hometown, that my personal passionate love affair with the great man was cemented. Since then, I have joyfully added many of his Lieder to my repertoire. Strauss’ vocal writing is second to none, so descriptive and imaginative. He writes every modicum of emotion and humour into the word setting, the vocal line, tessitura, the harmony and piano part. As a singing actor his songs are a dream to perform, so full of character and chances to colour and play with the text, and purely as an instrument he writes as if the voice has no end and no beginning, at the same time aware of limitations, yet always pushing it to extremes. When I was asked what I would like to sing for my debut album, it was clear that his songs spoke most to me, because in singing them I feel free, musically uplifted and utterly able to express myself. It was a real pleasure to record this album with the incomparable Joseph Middleton.
Louise Alder, 2017