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1953: 4 Last Songs (Vier Letze [Import]

Richard Strauss Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 8.31
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1. Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), for soprano & orchestra, o.Op. 150 (TrV 296, AV 150): 'Beim Schlafengehen': 'Nun der Tag mich m
2. Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), for soprano & orchestra, o.Op. 150 (TrV 296, AV 150): 'September': 'Der Garten trauert'
3. Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), for soprano & orchestra, o.Op. 150 (TrV 296, AV 150): 'Fruhling': 'In dammrigen Gruften'
4. Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), for soprano & orchestra, o.Op. 150 (TrV 296, AV 150): 'Im Abendrot': 'Wir sind durch Not und Fr
5. Arabella, opera, Op. 79 (TrV 263): Er ist der Richtige nicht für mich... Aber der Richtige
6. Arabella, opera, Op. 79 (TrV 263): Der Richtige- so hab ich stets zu mir gesagt... Und du wirst mein Gebi
7. Arabella, opera, Op. 79 (TrV 263): Das war sehr gut, Mandryka
8. Ariadne auf Naxos, opera, Op. 60-II (TrV 228a) (revised version): Es gibt ein Reich
9. Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): No. 1, Orchestral Introduction
10. Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): No. 2, Wo ist mein Bruder?
11. Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): No. 3, Morgen mittag um elf!
12. Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): No. 4, Kein Andres, das mir so im Herzen loht
13. Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): No. 5, Ihre Liebe schlägt entgegen

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT TO BE MISSED Nov. 26 2000
Format:Audio CD
As one record reviewer put it: "It was a voice unlike any other." Indeed, for sheer vocal beauty no one matches Lisa della Casa, and a quick sampling of this disc's contents will demonstrate why Strauss himself identified her as his ideal Arabella. The voice's glory was its upper register: full, free, intensely colored, and exciting. But she had other gifts: superlative breath control (amazing in this music), naturalness of utterance, and perfect diction. Her tone quality suggests restrained emotion, and although she is Swiss, I can think of no singer who evokes Viennese elegance better. I like lots of singers past and present, and I admire many, but I worship this voice. If the house were on fire, I'd grab this CD before jumping out the window.
Although the Boehm-led 'Four Last Songs' are a classic performance, I find they are my least favorite part of this recording. Boehm's tempos are a little fast and della Casa, for all her beauty, sounds disengaged. But from then on she is matchless. The 'Arabella' duets are stunning, both for the singer's high level of vocal accomplishment and her ability to convey the character's changing moods. She sounds so genuine and unaffected and the voice is so gorgeous that I find myself drawn into the drama as with no other singer. She has good partners in Gueden and Schoeffler, but Poell brays relentlessly. Her rendition of the passage beginning "Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein" is my number one tear-inducing moment in all of recorded history. The 'Ariadne' aria is nicely sung, although she was even better a few years later for EMI/Testament. The 'Capriccio' final scene is ravishing from beginning to end, with della Casa's voice soaring gloriously above the Vienna Philharmonic's lush carpet of sound.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Rendition? Oct. 10 2000
Format:Audio CD
Lisa della Casa's recording of the Four Last Songs has been a part of my life for the past twenty years; and in my book it beats all the competition, past, present and (probably) future. It may not be your perfect rendition, because one's response to a voice is such a personal, unpredictable thing; but it is certainly mine. Della Casa's shimmering, silvery soprano soars radiantly above the lush, romantic orchestration; and even after many, many times of listening to this disc, I still find something new in it. I never get tired of it, and it never fails to move me. The excerpts from Arabella are also excellent, although not as well recorded as the Four Last Songs. However, they reward repeated listening, and they preserve della Casa's celebrated interpretation of Arabella (her most famous stage role). Even if you have heard other interpreters of the Four Last Songs, and have your own favourite, please give this a try. For sheer tonal beauty, it cannot be beaten.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT TO BE MISSED Nov. 26 2000
By "opernnarr" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
As one record reviewer put it: "It was a voice unlike any other." Indeed, for sheer vocal beauty no one matches Lisa della Casa, and a quick sampling of this disc's contents will demonstrate why Strauss himself identified her as his ideal Arabella. The voice's glory was its upper register: full, free, intensely colored, and exciting. But she had other gifts: superlative breath control (amazing in this music), naturalness of utterance, and perfect diction. Her tone quality suggests restrained emotion, and although she is Swiss, I can think of no singer who evokes Viennese elegance better. I like lots of singers past and present, and I admire many, but I worship this voice. If the house were on fire, I'd grab this CD before jumping out the window.
Although the Boehm-led 'Four Last Songs' are a classic performance, I find they are my least favorite part of this recording. Boehm's tempos are a little fast and della Casa, for all her beauty, sounds disengaged. But from then on she is matchless. The 'Arabella' duets are stunning, both for the singer's high level of vocal accomplishment and her ability to convey the character's changing moods. She sounds so genuine and unaffected and the voice is so gorgeous that I find myself drawn into the drama as with no other singer. She has good partners in Gueden and Schoeffler, but Poell brays relentlessly. Her rendition of the passage beginning "Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein" is my number one tear-inducing moment in all of recorded history. The 'Ariadne' aria is nicely sung, although she was even better a few years later for EMI/Testament. The 'Capriccio' final scene is ravishing from beginning to end, with della Casa's voice soaring gloriously above the Vienna Philharmonic's lush carpet of sound. For once you will see the moonlight shimmer during the orchestral interlude. It's almost too rich and delicious, like Sachertorte for breakfast.
Decca's remastering brings the singer forward and gives the orchestra more presence, but am I the only one who misses some high frequencies as a result? Although there are some terrific Strauss sopranos around these days, no one should be without della Casa. She DEFINES Strauss singing. Don't deny yourself this superlative musical experience.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Rendition? Oct. 10 2000
By p.j.campbell@livjm.ac.uk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Lisa della Casa's recording of the Four Last Songs has been a part of my life for the past twenty years; and in my book it beats all the competition, past, present and (probably) future. It may not be your perfect rendition, because one's response to a voice is such a personal, unpredictable thing; but it is certainly mine. Della Casa's shimmering, silvery soprano soars radiantly above the lush, romantic orchestration; and even after many, many times of listening to this disc, I still find something new in it. I never get tired of it, and it never fails to move me. The excerpts from Arabella are also excellent, although not as well recorded as the Four Last Songs. However, they reward repeated listening, and they preserve della Casa's celebrated interpretation of Arabella (her most famous stage role). Even if you have heard other interpreters of the Four Last Songs, and have your own favourite, please give this a try. For sheer tonal beauty, it cannot be beaten.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing Oct. 20 2004
By Canzone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
From the day it was released all those years ago, this remains one of the most beautiful (Strauss) recordings ever made. It's been available in different versions (I have the earlier release that includes the Wesendonck Lieder with Flagstaf), but it's worth it to get this one for the opera arias. I'm not a big fan of these operas, but it's unlikely you'll ever hear them sung with more beauty or understanding. You may have another favorite recording of the Songs, but you owe it to yourself to listen to what Della Casa does here. And not to slight Bohm either; he obviously knew this music inside out, and is miles ahead of most of his competition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The music paper hardly dry... Oct. 24 2009
By J.J. de Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The musical archeologists of the Decca Legends series dig deep in the mud and not seldom have brought up real gems. A brilliant recording, exemplary performance this. Apart from that, the cd offers us a glimpse in a primordial world of the compostion in question: Four Last Songs. How would it feel to listen to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony only four years after completion? Or Wagner's Ring? Here is, the music paper hardly dry, a view on Strauss' swansong by a renowned Strauss interpreter, a divine soprano and an orchestra which was (and is) perhaps the best in the world.

Not hindered by any tradition of interpretation Della Casa and Böhm have formed the standard by which all my favorites must be gauged. Over 55 years old but as fresh as if the songs were recorded yesterday. You can write pages about the spotless textual interpretation, as well as about the suprisingly up-tempo playing (Im Abendrot clocks under 6 minutes!), the original playing order of the songs (3-2-1-4) and so on. And what about Della Casa's excitingly sultry voice with uniquely distinguishing vibrato?

What I like most about this interpretation is its insistence not to trip into the gaping hole of false sentiment this music appears to embody - a trap in which other famous sopranos (Jessye Norman!) so ostensibly plunge. For this is no music for funerals: this is music accepting death as a transition to another phase - not an end but a beginning, no sadness but comfort. Exactly as Strauss' own philosophy comprised - see for instance Death and Transfiguration, music that tends to rise up instead of move downwards into the earth.

Della Casa's rendition, in the Lieder as well as in the operatic fragments, certainly is not faultless. In Arabella now and then an awkward moment appears. Not all notes are spot on nor exquisitely finished. But who cares when listening to a vocal highwire act of such intensity and soaring sensibility. A flesh and blood singer, not a digital perfectionist.

Finally, Lisa Della Casa's aristocratic posture and 'old-fashioned' beauty must be mentioned, two not unimportant features of any operatic actrice, that must have made a live performance including Della Casa into a very exciting evening indeed. The Arabella fragments with that other operatic beauty from days gone past, Hilde Gueden as Zdenka, make the hearts beat faster in more than one aspect.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious voice in excellent transfers Feb. 19 2010
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This Decca Legends issue offers exactly the same programme as the newly remastered Naxos disc. There is also a super-bargain Regis, which includes an extra aria from "Ariadne auf Naxos" ("Ein Schönes war") conducted live in 1954 by Böhm and also substitutes a live performance of the final scene from "Capriccio", conducted in 1953 by Johannes den Hertog. The bonus "Ariadne" excerpt and the extra frisson and immediacy derived from the live "Capriccio", in combination with the low price, should make the Regis an attractive alternative; unfortunately their clumsy remastering from LPs has resulted in too much obtrusive "wow and swoosh" to make it wholly recommendable - yet the Regis disc retains its value for the animation of that live "Capriccio" performance and the fact that despite its rough edgy sound and prominent harps, it retains upper frequencies lost in the fuller, richer sound of both the Decca and the Naxos versions. Previous reviewers have wondered whether Decca's re-engineering for the Legends series has not removed too many of those upper frequencies; I can say only that to my ears, the singers have been brought forward and the orchestra has more presence; both welcome improvements, despite the very slightly duller, more muffled quality.

Much has already been written about the creamy beauty of Lisa della Casa's voice, especially in Strauss. The composer called her his ideal Arabella and there is ample evidence for his enthusiasm in these excerpts. There is nothing overt or over-emotive about her singing; the voice soars effortlessly heavenwards, surprising the listener with its power despite its essentially lyric quality. In addition to radiant tone and innate musicality, della Casa had the indefinable ability to touch the heart of both the listener and the character she embodies.

Della Casa here sings the "Four Last Songs" in the order preferred by the composer, although as a modern listener I would need some convincing that this sequence is really artistically preferable. Leaving that aside, it is refreshing to hear these songs sung so straightforwardly; the angelic radiance of her tone, the broad, arcing phrasing on a long breath and the refusal to swoon create spirituality without a trace of sentimentality. First-time listeners might be taken aback by the complementary directness of Böhm's brisk accompaniment; there is little use of ritardando or the courting of stasis so common in more reverential readings - but it suits della Casa's mode perfectly and her interpretation forms a welcome counterpoint to the more indulgent, Romanticised versions we have become used to. Some find her cool in these songs; I suggest that they are not listening properly.

We are then treated to her interpretations of three great Straussian ladies and can again admire the economy with which she portrays their varied emotions. She is equally convincing and adorable in all three rôles, from the ironic playfulness of the Countess, to the wistfulness of Arabella, to the naïve piety of Ariadne - and in glorious voice throughout; the trenchancy of her low A flat on "Totenreich" immediately followed by a ringing B flat on "Hermes" is testament to a voice in prime condition throughout its two registers. Furthermore, this anthology comprises some of the most delicate, moving and sensuous music Strauss ever wrote; the ideal vehicle for such a voice to float and soar in. Is there a more luscious tune in opera than the long-breathed melody which launches Arabella's "Aber der Richtige"? Not when sung as it is here by della Casa, I submit - especially when Gueden answers her with Zdenka's dreamy rejoinder and the two voices intertwine. If I have any criticism at all, it is to cavil about della Casa's occasional use of a half-aspirate to change pitch in the upper reaches of her voice, but otherwise it is voice as close to perfection as one could encounter. She is happily supported by three great Vienna regulars in Hilde Gueden, Paul Schoeffler and Alfred Poell, all perfectly in character and vocally impressive.

For me, however, the centrepiece of this programme is the closing scene from "Capriccio". As much as I love Gundula Janowitz and Renée Fleming in this music, della Casa is the supreme aristocrat in this role, singing with a purity, charm and unfeigned sincerity which are utterly irresistible.

And all the while, we can enjoy the luxury of the finest orchestra possible in this music. The Vienna Philharmonic provides a velvet cushion of sound, utterly at ease in Strauss's idiom. Despite the mono sound, the "Moonlight" music has rarely sounded more magical.

While I still appreciate the added sonority of a modern stereo recording such as that given to Fleming in her marvellous disc of Strauss bon-bons with Susan Graham and Barbara Bonney, I would never want to be without this magnificent souvenir of perhaps the greatest Strauss soprano ever. Similarly, while treasurable recordings of the "Four Last Songs" are legion, every devotee should make room on the shelves for this one, no matter how many versions he owns.
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