There will always be a dispute about the best interpretation of the Four Last Songs--perhaps the most eloquent expression of regret, but acceptance about life. Written by a man of 84,who spanned the 19'th and 20'th centuries. In particular Norman's rendition of Beim Schlafengehen is so sublime that I have to ration myself to one listening every 3 months to avoid overload.
I've listened to many recordings of the 'Four Last Songs' and I admire some considerably, among them the famous rendering by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, but I still find that no-one really compares with Jessye Norman for emotional punch. It is as though she has got 'inside' Strauss's music and felt something so deep, so ethereal that it is almost disturbing.
I see that this disc can now be bought in conjunction with her version of Wagner's 'Wesendonck Lieder' at more or less the same price, which looks like a very attractive buy. In fact, I think I'll order one myself!
I am not going to engage in debate over the best interpretations on disc of the marvellous four last songs, but the special qualities of this disc have been evident to me since reading the welcoming music critic reviews and buying the LP when this set was issued. These are powerful, richly voiced and richly accompanied performances in a warm digital sound which is notably better on CD. It is for me an essential set and another disc I will be packing into my suitcase for that desert island trip!
It all started with Alan Yentob saying in a TV programme that a piece of music had been haunting him for 25 years; "Beim Schlafengehen" sung by Jessye Norman. It was playing in the breaks between his speaking. Before the music had ended, I'd downloaded this album, and now I'm haunted by it as well. For me, this music sits between opera and religious music (though it is neither). Perhaps that is its' appeal.