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Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs CD

4.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, CD, 1 Sep 2003
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£14.97 & FREE UK Delivery on orders dispatched by Amazon over £20. Delivery Details Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Frequently bought together

  • Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs
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  • Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs  (DECCA The Originals)
  • +
  • Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung, Metamorphosen, Vier letzte Lieder (DG The Originals)
Total price: £26.20
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Product details

  • Performer: Soile Isokoski
  • Orchestra: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Marek Janowski
  • Composer: Richard Strauss
  • Audio CD (1 Sept. 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Ondine
  • ASIN: B000062TDA
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,350 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Das Rosenband, Op.36/1
  2. Ich Wollt Ein Strausslein Binden, Op.68/2
  3. Sausle, Liebe Myrte, Op.68/3
  4. Als Mir Dein Lied Erklang, Op.68/4
  5. Befreit, Op.39/4
  6. Ruhe, Meine Seele!, Op.27/1
  7. Wiegenlied, Op.41/1
  8. Meinem Kinde, Op.37/3
  9. Zueignung, Op.10/1
  10. Morgen!, Op.27/4
  11. Die Heiligen Drei Konige Aus Morgenland, Op.56/6
  12. Vier Letzte Lieder, Op.Posth.: Fruhling
  13. Vier Letzte Lieder, Op.Posth.: September
  14. Vier Letzte Lieder, Op.Posth.: Beim Schlafengehen
  15. Vier Letzte Lieder, Op.Posth.: Im Abendrot

Product description

Strauss songs with orchestra, especially his final masterpiece, the Four Last Songs, have fared well in recordings, with compelling versions by the likes of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Lisa Della Casa, Jessye Norman, Gundula Janowitz and others of their calibre. But the Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski yields nothing to her distinguished predecessors.

For some sopranos, Strauss's soaring melodies invite lingering tempos and arch interpretations that dwell on individual words and syllables, breaking the composer's long lines. Not here: Isokoski's sunlit voice and stunning legato illuminate music and text with restrained feeling. The Four Last Songs are taken at a perfect tempo, slow enough to let their message sink in, fast enough to let the music flow unimpeded. It's a lesson in the artfulness of simplicity, where less tinkering with the music equals more profundity and pleasure.

The 11 other songs on the disc are as good, and while the quality of songs and singing is high throughout, it's hard to rid the memory of Isokoski's renditions of "Wiegenlied" and "Morgen" once you hear them. But the same may be said of "Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland" or "Befriet", among others. This is a disc to treasure. --Dan Davis

BBC Review

When was the last time you honestly listened with open ears to a new recording of Strauss's loving farewell to the soprano voice and gave it a chance against your tried-and-tested favourites?

Everyone seems to have a favourite recording of the Four Last Songs, maybe two; I'll cheerfully admit to Lucia Popp and Felicity Lott, even the comparatively extreme Jessye Norman for the radiant beauty of her huge voice, and awesome breath control.

'What about Schwarzkopf?' you may be asking. Well, yes, I do have copies of her recordings, but they're never the ones I reach for first, despite the fact I know I'm supposed to. Too breathy, and lacking the burnished beauty of the best of the rest (that will have made me a few enemies for sure!).'s a new recording everyone who loves these songs should hear, whether they end up adding it to their list or not. Soile Isokoski made me listen afresh for the first time in years...and she also made me realise that we've been drifting further and further from what Strauss asked for, accepting slower and more self-indulgent speeds, and hyper-inflated emotional expressionism. Maybe in the late 20th century we learned to love these songs too much, forgetting their essential simplicity. Here's a reminder perhaps of what the man really meant.

Don't be alarmed if Isokoski and Janowski feel brisk in some of the orchestral songs we've become used to hearing almost in slow motion. Here Strauss is allowed to speak for himself straight from the pages of the score, and Isokoski's silvery soprano soars effortlessly into the stratosphere, as beautiful a sound as anyone could wish for, yet without the layers of interpretative varnish or rich vibrato that actually distance us from the real emotional content of the songs. The cradle songs (Wiegenlied and Meinem Kinde) are a perfect illustration of Isokoski's approach: simple, direct, and deeply moving. By the time she gets to Morgen, you're emotional putty in her hands...and the rapt stillness she achieves is magical.

Often the great vocal performances have been let down by the orchestra and/or conductor (see Jessye Norman for details!), sometimes an intrusively close recording: not here. Even the all-important violin solos are impeccable, playing and singing perfectly matched.

If you like Strauss, you must hear this. And if you know one of those music-lovers who think no-one's done anything worth hearing in the Four Last Songs since Schwartzkopf and Szell in '66, make them listen to Isokoski. It could be the best thing that happens to them all year.

Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3

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Customer reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 20 July 2008
Format: Audio CD
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on 11 March 2004
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 December 2011
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on 15 January 2004
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