61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Desert Island disc par excellence
There have been many wonderful recordings of the Four Last Songs but none can compare with this which has to rank as one of the greatest vocal recordings ever made. There are not enough "stars" available to do it justice when rating it. Everything about it is simply perfection. It is the most played disc in my collection. Whenever I am feeling "down" on it goes and it...
Published on 9 Jan. 2009 by Jacobite
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me - horses for courses
If you like a big booming performance go for this. But I much prefer the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf version. Both are brilliant but I suspect this version is not what the composer intended.
Published on 27 May 2010 by Justin Lusty
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Desert Island disc par excellence,
There have been many wonderful recordings of the Four Last Songs but none can compare with this which has to rank as one of the greatest vocal recordings ever made. There are not enough "stars" available to do it justice when rating it. Everything about it is simply perfection. It is the most played disc in my collection. Whenever I am feeling "down" on it goes and it never fails to lift my spirits. The glorious sounds that Norman produces are out of this world, soaring aloft, transporting you heavenwards:one moment literally making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and the next filling your heart and soul with a warm glow as she reduces her huge and refulgent voice down to the most beautiful whispered pianissimo. I once played this recording in the hi fi demonstration room of a large department store and within seconds a crowd had gathered around the doorway all thrilled by the singing and eager to know what was the music. I would rest content on my desert island, not the least anxious to be rescued, if I had this disc with me. "ist dies etwa der Tod?" ("can this be death?") are the concluding words of the fourth song, Im Abendrot. What bliss it would be to pass away on my island my ears filled with this celestial music.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it.,
This is a particularly beautiful version of Strauss 4 last songs.I listened to a number of versions before choosing this. The depth and range of her voice is perfect for these songs. I heard the Strauss on a radio 4 programme for the first time and was amazed and hooked: the music is poignant and rich without being maudlin. Buy it.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spine tingling,
I have heard several sopranos singing Strauss's Four Last Songs, but in my opinion Jessye Norman's is the best. Her voice is so pure and seemingly effortless to reach and hold the perfect note with perfect timing. Apart from the fact that this soprano's voice seems well suited to this particular music, there is some extra quality to her voice which makes this performance outstanding.Strauss, R.: Four Last Songs etc
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Which 4 last songs recording?,
I too am an ardent listener of Richard Strauss Lieder, like other reviewers I can find music to reflect alll moods, however, the purpose of this review is to comment on his 'Four last songs' and in particular Im Abendrot. My original two recordings were of Gundula Janowitz with the Berliner Philharmonic conducted by Herbet Von Karajan and Renee Fleming with the Munchner under ChristianThieleman. I had been mulling over reviews of the Four last songs and Jessye Norman was obviously a firm favourite amongst the reviewers so I decided to buy it. There is no doubt that all the recordings are very moving and of a high standard, I can still listen to the four last songs with a great depth of feeling, Morgen too is another of my particular favourites. I have decided though that Renee Fleming is the recording that I prefer, I find her tonal range that little bit more in depth than that of Jessye Norman, I have also watched her sing this live and the lump in my throat almost choked me!! My only reservation with the Jessye Norman recording is it's length, approximately 2 minutes longer than the Renee Fleming recording and I felt it rather laborious. Her control though is I agree without fault. So, yes all three recordings I have are excellent, but, of the three I will opt for Fleming as my preferred. M.H.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The composer's wildest dream,
Not only has Jessye Norman, for my money, one of the most beautiful voices ever recorded - comfortably on a par with Caruso and Gigli and exceeding the likes even of Tebaldi and Pryce for sheer beauty of tone - but a depth of intelligence and perception that is rare in any performing artist, and extremely rare in a singer. Put these two qualities together and you have something that gives me the feeling of being in the presence of some profound truth; something elemental and inexpressible through other other medium or by any other combination of artists. Even Pavarotti in his finest years - arguably the most purely beautiful tenor voice ever recorded - would have been doing well to get a job sweeping the stage in this company.
In this programme, Norman has a repertoire that allows a great artist, at the peak of her powers, acres of space in which to explore and reveal her art, partnered by Kurt Masur's perceptive and delicate handling of the marvellous Gewandhausorchester. This is a performance that must sit with a tiny handful of others at the very pinnacle of recording history. Up there with Kleiber's Beethoven 5&7 with the Vienna Philharmonic or the Britten/Vishnevskaya/Pears/Fischer-Dieskau War Requiem. There is nothing to fault here, and much that is thankfully beyond my powers of intellectual and emotional comprehension. I can't imagine that even Strauss' wildest fantasy could have imagined a performance of his Four Last Songs that could achieve these dimensions.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Last Songs,
The Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss are beautiful compositions set to poems. The songs are sung in German.
I have seen them performed live by three different sopranos in the last two years, including Renee Fleming at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday evening, and each time I am moved just as much by the music as the singing.
Most debate seems to concern which soprano delivers the best rendition. Well the truth is they are all good! My preference is for the Elizabeth Schwarskopf version but that is probably because it was the first version I bought and I always think that creates a personal bias.
Jessye Norman's is a fine performance. She has a strong voice and there is great feeling in her interpretation. My only reservation is that the recording does sound just a little bit dated.
If you are yet to hear the 'four last songs' then at £2.99 dive in here. You will not be disappointed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never loses its power,
Heard many recordings (and some live) in the past 30 years, but this is the one I go back to and always gift. Moving.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better value recording,
Strauss: Four Last Songs; Wagner: Wesendonk Lieder
I cannot improve on the reviews here of this outstanding performance.
Just to say that at the present date (June 2013) there is a CD with Jessye's Four Last Songs AND The Wesendonk Lieder selling here on Amazon for £7.34.The Strauss by Masur(the same recording as this) and the Wagner by Colin Davis(much missed)So in this case you CAN have your cake and eat it.I have the Strauss/Wagner disc and the Wesendonk is as great as the Strauss.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more mellow approach needed for me!,
At the give away price of £2.99 on Amazon I decided to add this disc to my collection of 'Four Last Songs' recordings. However, having listened to the aforementioned songs I must admit to finding it a bit astringent at times. I do not dispute Jessye Norman's wonderful talent but her Strauss does not appeal to me greatly.
Some of this may be down to the recording but Frühling sounded rather ear shattering to me. Moreover, I felt it bordered on the Wagnerian in delivery. Things do settle down a bit in the other three songs but I still do not feel that they hit the spot for me.
I admit that I prefer these pieces delivered with a more autumnal air as I think that such an approach is suited to these songs written towards the end of Strauss's life. For this reason I shall always go back to Janowitz & Karajan, Schwarzkopf & Szell and my guilty pleasure (which few seem to like) Te Kanawa & Solti.
I have yet to sample the remainder of this disc but given the main reason for the purchase were the last four songs, I am a little disappointed. However, this is of course a very personal opinion and such is the nature of music listening. Others will no doubt love this disc especially fans of this wonderful artist (see other reviews).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply glorious,
For me recordings of The Four Last rise and fall on the quality of the singers breath control; the attention to detail of the text; the handling of the crescendo in Beim Schlafengehen; and the last few phrases of the final song. Jessye Norman, based on these personal litmus tests, is sheer perfection. It just does not get better. Yes, I have a soft spot for Schwarzkop's 2nd version, which is truly sublime and a wonderful summation of a glittering recording career, but this version would be the one I'd take if I could only save one. It saddens my heart to hear this great interpreter these days attempting Jazz and the great American song book. This disc reminds me of how her voice can lift the spirit and move you in a way like no other. The conducting is sensitive and the sound is gorgeous.
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