“Into the Fire – Live at Wigmore Hall” – RICHARD STRAUSS: Du meines Herzens Krönelein; All’ mein Gedanken; Die Nacht; Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden; Traum durch die Dämmerung; Morgen! LEKEU: Molto adagio; DEBUSSY: Chansons de Bilitis; HEGGIE: Camille Claudel: Into the Fire; GRUBER: Silent Night – Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano/ Brentano String Quartet, Erato (Warner Classics) 0190295642198, 77:38 ****:

As indicated in the title, this is a live recording taken from Wigmore Hall in December of 2017. As a twist on the usual soprano/ vocalist duo, DiDonato instead opts for some string quartet arrangements for Strauss and Debussy (the Lekeu is his own), which makes a lot of sense as the entire program leads up to Jake Heggie’s miraculous cycle Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, written for DiDonato and the Alexander String Quartet in San Francisco in 2012. This work, intensely lyrical and dramatic, concentrates on the sad and difficult life story of sculptor Camille Claudel and her thorny relationship with co-artist Rodin. Having lost her unborn child in 1892, and on the losing end of her love for Rodin, who refused to leave his mistress Rose Beuret, she ends up confined in an asylum, with this work implicitly indicating the action taking place the night before her final journey. It is a moving and extraordinary piece of music.

Portrait Camille Claudel

Camille Claudel

The rest of the recital bookends the action of the Heggie, both the Strauss and Debussy pieces among their most passionate. Even the Lekeu movement from his string quartet maintains this strikingly intense mood. Only the Silent Night of Franz Gruber—this was in December after all, allows some final relief to an audience that must have been stretched to the breaking point. DiDonato, one the best of the best mezzos these days, is in fine fettle, singing with authority and empathy throughout. I wish I could have been there, but this is the next best thing!

—Steven Ritter

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