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19 Reviews
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful voice and performance, tempos a bit too fast
When I first heard the Four Last Songs (by Schwarzkopf), I was mightilly impressed by the performance, although I found her enunciation wanting (you really needed the textbook to see what she was actually singing). But perhaps you don't need the words to enjoy the music (art for art's sake). After repeated listening I also found Schwarzkopf's voice quality in the lower...
Published on 20 July 2008 by JJA Kiefte

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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars standard four songs
This a delightful recording and she does have a delightfull voice, the orchestration is sweet and ideal. But this is the problem I have with it, its all just a bit too nice! where's the drama? If you only want one recording of Strauss's last songs go for Karajan and Janowitz on DG as it is the best recording available and one of the greatest recordings ever. I think...
Published on 5 Sep 2008 by D. E. Potts


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful voice and performance, tempos a bit too fast, 20 July 2008
By 
JJA Kiefte "Joost Kiefte" (Tegelen, Nederland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
When I first heard the Four Last Songs (by Schwarzkopf), I was mightilly impressed by the performance, although I found her enunciation wanting (you really needed the textbook to see what she was actually singing). But perhaps you don't need the words to enjoy the music (art for art's sake). After repeated listening I also found Schwarzkopf's voice quality in the lower register a bit "cat" like, and so I started looking for an alternative, which I found in Jessye Norman. Despite her not being a native speaker of German, her diction was better, her voice quality overall very good, but I found her rather grandiose style of singing a tad less appealing.
Soile Isokoski's style of singing makes her the ideal interpreter of this music: a light-hued voice, non-prima donna attitude and great diction. I would gladly have awarded five stars were it not for the very fast tempos that take away some of the essential charm of this wonderful music.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning, 11 Mar 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
I first came across Soile Isokoski in a magnificent recording of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" when she sang the role of Donna Elvira (Simon Keenlyside was the fabulous eponymous character). I was staggered by her fantastic technique and beautiful quality of sound. It is often the case that great singers of Mozart (and she is definitely that) are often well suited to the works of Richard Strauss and Miss Isokoski is no exception.
For me, her interpretation of the Four Last Songs is absolutely miraculous. She comes close to Lucia Popp (the greatest exponent, in my opinion) for soul-searching intensity and an utter understanding of the songs.
As for the rest of the works on this CD, "Befreit" is one which I had never encountered before and I was utterly riveted by it. Even now, after hundreds of times of listening to it, it always reduces me to tears. "Morgen", of course, is one of Strauss's most famous songs and she sings it absolutely beautifully.
The orchestra is magnificent and the conducting exemplary. I would urge any lover of Strauss's music (and, indeed, anyone who would like to get to know it) to buy this CD - satisfaction guaranteed.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music that expresses the inexpressable, 15 Jan 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
For me, it is difficult to find opera singers who sing, as opposed to sounding like they are gargling with a hot potato. Thankfully, Soile Isokoski is a woman who not only sings, but whose heart manages to express the inexpressible.
She has exquisite delicacy, softness and tenderness when called for (listen to her unforgetable rendition of Morgen!) and an enormous range of intensity that can leave you emotionally exhausted (for example listen to Befreit). Yet, she never loses her restraint, which leaves one with the feeling that she is always singing to you, rather than warbling to you. Her voice is everything I always wanted, but never really found. Consequently, for me this CD is not easy listening: It is a powerful spiritual experience that resonates with that inner ache and longing for the divine, and as such demands that one emotionally fully engage to it.
One thing I dislike about so called legendary performances of the Four Last Songs is the quality of the music. To my ears, performances recorded before the 1980's generally sound like the music is being played in the neighbours living room - boxy and lacking in dynamic range. It is therefore wonderful to hear the music in this CD so clear, present and beautifully recorded.
For anyone who is thinking about discovering the songs of R. Strauss for the first time, this is the CD that will not leave you disappointed. The more you listen to it, the more you discover, and the more it moves you and makes you weep. R.Strauss was the last great romantic, and here you discover what that can really mean. It seems that Soile is a rising star not because she shows a lot cleavage on the front cover, but because her voice touches your soul, and for this she deserves our gratitude.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunningly beautiful offering from a bright rising star., 22 Mar 2002
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
My father spent his latter years saying of (then) new interpretations of music he loved, "it's nowhere near as good as (in his case)Elisabeth Schumann etc.). As I suppose most of us do, I had turned into my father! For the last twenty years no-one, except possibly Lisa della Casa, came anywhere close to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's recording of the wonderful Four last Songs. Quite simply, this comes very, very close; in fact the last two are, in my opinion, better. The Orchestral playing is full of richness and sensitivity too. The other 11 tracks range from the very pretty to the heart-rendingly beautiful (tracks 9 and 10 particularly.)
I once read a review on this site describing the voice of Maria Cristina Kiehr as being like seeing the sun reflected through a glass of cool Chardonnay! Well, if that's not over the top, I would carry on the analogy by saying, in this case, think "griottes". The orchestral playing is as rich as the best dark chocolate,the music has all the warmth of Cherry Brandy, but inside, instead of a cherry, we have a radiant shining ruby in Isokoski's voice. Thank you Ondine, this CD is a wonder!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply ravishing, 3 Feb 2003
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
I heard Soile Isokoski sing in Cosi fan Tutti at Covent Garden last year and she was stunning. When I saw this CD advertised, I thought I would buy it, though other than Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos, I had not really listened to Strauss. Luckily CDs don't seem to wear out readily as I have played this over and over. Her voice is beautiful and the emotional intensity she gives to Wiegenlied, Beim Schlafengehen and Im Abendrot is breathtaking. Buy it - listen and be moved.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Majestic, 17 Jun 2008
By 
William Small (Bristol) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
This is a gem to treasure. If you already love Strauss's music you really should buy this CD. If you don't yet love his music buy it anyway and be prepared to fall in love, not only with Strauss but with the superlative Soile Isokoski and the very able Marek Janowski. I have loved the Four Last Songs for many years and this is the best recording I've ever encountered.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing and wonderful, 26 Dec 2006
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
Simply amazing.....I had never listened to Soile Isokoski before, nor Strauss' orchestral songs

The power and intensity, yet delicacy, of her performance cannot fail to beguile and spellbind any discerning listener; the woman is a witch!

I was deeply moved
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful, intense, 4 Feb 2009
By 
Jonathan Greenyer "JonathanGreenyer" (Windsor, Berkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
Start with some of the finest songs ever written and then add the magical interpretation of Isokoski and this is a nother essential CD for your collection. It adds so much to previous interpretations.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious, 18 Mar 2005
By A Customer
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
As if we didn't know, Strauss loved writing for the female voice and this CD is just wonderful. I had never heard of Soile Isokoski, but the Four last Songs are perfect. The orchestral performance and recording balance are excellent. This is one of the best CDs I have ever bought and it's going to get played to death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh, thrilling new take on these inexhaustible songs, 7 Dec 2011
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs (Audio CD)
This recording was made in 2001 and released a year later. As it has been extensively reviewed in the ten years since, I do not have a great deal to add apart from providing a perspective from the time since elapsed and of one who has a dozen recordings of these miraculous songs.

There is little doubt that Isokoski has, alongside the very different version by Renee Fleming, provided the best account this century so far, although she must be stand comparison with the scores of recordings in the fifty years following their first performance in 1950 (by Kristin Flagstad conducted by Furtwängler!). Her voice comes from the same stable as the likes of Lucia Popp and Barbara Hendricks in that it is silvery, shimmering and light in timbre but not without sufficient penetration to both cut through and soar over a big, sumptuous orchestral sound. To match that voice type, Janowski's speeds are on the brisk side but not superficial or perfunctory; these are more in the Böhm school of interpretation: taut and disinclined to linger but carrying a kind of nervous brilliance of its own. I could look for more of a sense of nostalgic, aching beauty in the concluding "Im Abendrot" and the strings of the Berlin Rundfunk could be more voluptuous - but again, it is refreshing to hear Strauss played with more immediacy and delicacy of touch than the three-pile velvety approach of Big Beast interpreters like Karajan and Masur with Jessye Norman, whose V-8 voice is to Isokoski's as the mighty ocean swell is to a sparkling Nordic stream.

The trembling immediacy of Isokoski's delivery is infectious; she sounds youthful and ecstatic with the kind of emotional simplicity and directness associated with Lisa della Casa or Sena Jurinac. Sometimes I want to hear these songs done by the likes of Fleming, Norman and on other occasions I prefer a lighter, less self-conscious touch of the kind delivered by Te Kanawa with Andrew Davis in her first and better recording.

It is no mean bonus that Isokoski sings eleven gorgeous Strauss Lieder culminating in the captivating "Three Kings" carol arrangement with its exquisite extended orchestral coda. This is played even better by Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic with Tomowa-Sintow but his singer is inferior in breath-control and tonal subtlety to Isokoski and Janowski conveys even more of the drama of Herod's threat to the Christ-child before returning to the serenity of the Nativity scene.

Ondine's sound is a tad bright and brittle but this again suits the lighter style employed in this music. Isokoski's diction is occasionally sacrificed to maintaining smooth beauty of tone but that doesn't bother me; this is still a five-star disc by any reckoning and could be your favourite if her style temperamentally matches yours.
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Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs
Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss (Audio CD - 2003)
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