STRAUSS:  Music from Salome, Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Liebe der Danae and Capriccio.
Julia Varady, soprano; Bamberg SO/Fischer-Dieskau, cond.

ORFEO  C 511 991 (F) (DDD) TT:  62:20

Julia Varady is a name relatively unfamiliar to most opera aficionados although she has been around for a long time. Born in Romania, she made her debut in 1962 singing mezzo-soprano and dramatic soprano roles. In 1970 she was hired by Christoph von Dohnányi at the Frankfurt Opera where she specialized in Mozart  and  Verdi. She made her Metropolitan debut in 1977 as Donna Elvira. The current Schwann/Opus lists recordings of music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Mozart, Shostakovich, Spohr, Spontini, Johann and Richard Strauss, and Tchaikovsky, indicating the wide range of her repertory. Her best-known recording is the Empress in Solti's Die Frau ohne Schatten, recorded 1989-91, in which she challenges but does not unseat Rysanek's dominance in the role.

Ms. Varady has now officially retired from public performance; this new CD is an example of her efforts in the studio. It is a mixed bag. A Salome she is not, although one can appreciate her interpretive gifts. She does negotiate the notes but not without effort. She's more successful in "Ein Sch–neswar" and "Es gibt ein Reich" from Ariadne, even more so in "Wie umgibst du mich mit Frieden" from Die Liebe der Danae. Best of all is the concluding closing scene from Capriccio, although Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's 1953 EMI recording remains definitive.

Ms. Varady's husband, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, conducts the Bamberg Symphony and even sings the brief lines of the major-domo in the Capriccio finale. His distinguished career as a lieder singer is what he will be remembered for; the gentler Strauss on this CD works well, but the Salome conducting is passionless. The recording is not without a touch of distortion, with an overall bland atmosphere that lacks presence. Quite copious notes review the performances in glowing fashion— without warrant—space that could have been utilized for texts, of which there are none.

R.E.B. (March 2000)