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Strauss: Four Last Songs/Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder


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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Jan. 30 2001)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000523QL
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,136 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Vier letzte Lieder
2. Vier letzte Lieder
3. Vier letzte Lieder
4. Vier letzte Lieder
5. Wesendonk - Lieder
6. Wesendonk - Lieder
7. Wesendonk - Lieder
8. Wesendonk - Lieder
9. Wesendonk - Lieder

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Audio CD
This recording of Strauss' four last songs towers over the recorded history of that work. More than any other rendition Norman can claim to evince the songs as Flagstad premiered them with huge Wagnerian waves of sound. Norman will thrill, delight, amaze and pin you to your seat until she is finished.
Unfortunately Masur chose some ridiculously slow speeds but you can get used to those. Generally you'll be too distracted by Norman to notice, so it's not a big problem. At least nothing is too fast, which in these songs is the greater sin.
The Vier Letzte Lieder was originally coupled with six Strauss lieder performances (still available at full price) and one can't help feeling a little short-changed that Phillips replaced these with the Wessendonck-lieder, losing many delights in the process (and a reasonable amount of listening time).
The Wagner is a good performance (it could hardly be less from Norman), but I can't bring myself to call it 'great'. Studer (again coupled with an indispensable if less-known vier letzte lieder) and Eaglen (with a poor Strauss but excellent Berg) both bring something more beautiful and more interesting to these songs.
In the end, unless you really only want the vier letzte lieder, the mid-price repackaging is a bit of a farce, as you only get two-thirds of the music. You may as well pay for the full price recording and get the other Strauss lieder instead - they're more worthwhile than the Wessendonck-lieder in any case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By schnoidl on April 10 2004
Format: Audio CD
as far as the repackaging goes, the other Strauss lieder with the original pale in comparison anyway, as does, frankly, most other music: these four works transcend sentiment and worldly fodder, and manage to connect with some other timeless place. Generally, if I so much as think of this record, I get waves of goosebumps. This is a pinnacle of human achievement.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Did not know much about Richard Strauss except the name until I heard this on CBC radio. I ordered the exact same CD they played on air, and wow! The music is just fantastic and Jessye Norman's voice is absolutely bewitching. The remastering quality is also top.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The classic Strauss repackaged at mid price, but... Dec 19 2001
By Matthew J. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This recording of Strauss' four last songs towers over the recorded history of that work. More than any other rendition Norman can claim to evince the songs as Flagstad premiered them with huge Wagnerian waves of sound. Norman will thrill, delight, amaze and pin you to your seat until she is finished.
Unfortunately Masur chose some ridiculously slow speeds but you can get used to those. Generally you'll be too distracted by Norman to notice, so it's not a big problem. At least nothing is too fast, which in these songs is the greater sin.
The Vier Letzte Lieder was originally coupled with six Strauss lieder performances (still available at full price) and one can't help feeling a little short-changed that Phillips replaced these with the Wessendonck-lieder, losing many delights in the process (and a reasonable amount of listening time).
The Wagner is a good performance (it could hardly be less from Norman), but I can't bring myself to call it 'great'. Studer (again coupled with an indispensable if less-known vier letzte lieder) and Eaglen (with a poor Strauss but excellent Berg) both bring something more beautiful and more interesting to these songs.
In the end, unless you really only want the vier letzte lieder, the mid-price repackaging is a bit of a farce, as you only get two-thirds of the music. You may as well pay for the full price recording and get the other Strauss lieder instead - they're more worthwhile than the Wessendonck-lieder in any case.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
ethereal heights Dec 4 2006
By Brian Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Richard Strauss wrote the Four Last Songs in 1948, when he was in his 80s, and a year away from his own death. His country had been devastated by the Second World War, and it was from the lofty plateau of a wiser old age that he looks back with these wonderful reflections on mortality and the rich beauty of life. I think the Four Last Songs the best thing Strauss wrote.
Many will debate their favourite recordings. There are different strengths to different performances. For me, Jessye Norman has the controlled power to make this the standout performance so far recorded. Kurt Masur's conducting is superb, and the Gewandhaus produces all the calm variation of this rich score.
Whilst Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder are a very satisfying addition, they do not reach the ethereal heights of the Strauss.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A breathtaking ethereal flight through the heights of vocal expression. Oct. 31 2012
By Luca - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This CD unifies the "cores" (evidently in Philips opinion) of two (or three, counting the original issue of Strauss' Lieder) other issues. From these two R Strauss: Four Last Songs - Strauss, R.: Four Last Songs etc are omitted 6 other Strauss' Orchesterlieder, from this one Wagner : Tristan und Isolde & Wesendonk - Lieder /Jessye Norman are omitted the Tristan und Isolde Prelude and Isoldes Liebestod. The Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder gain the Super Digital Transfer (96kHz-24bit). Indeed, the result is a CD a bit empty (47'41"), but here the matter is quality and not quantity.

Strauss' four last songs are absolute masterpieces. The lyrics of three of them are by Hermann Hesse (one of my favorite writers and poets); the lines of the fourth lied are by Joseph von Eichendorff. Therefore, the mastery and the mellow artistry of the last Richard Strauss (here saying a serene adieu to his earthly experience and preparing to the next life of his soul) joined to the high poetry of Hesse/Eichendorff create the miracle.

In my opinion Wagner's lieder stay, from an artistic point of view, one or two steps below. Mathilde Wesendonk's lyrics are quite good and touching, but obviously hers is an amateur poetry and it suffers a bit from mannerism and a Decadent posture. The orchestration is not by Wagner, but by Felix Mottl. He is an excellent Wagnerian specialist and a gifted musician, but the orchestral effect lacks the involving density and originality of the Master. Therefore, in Strauss' case, the absolute excellence of Norman/Masur's performance gives plentiful evidence of the artistry virtually contained in the score; in Wagner's case, the superb performance by Norman/Davis improves the artistic interest of the compositions.

In general terms, Norman's timbre is not of my preferred kind; but a judgement on a vocal timbre, due to the numberless elements that in human voice contribute to determine it, is deeply affected by the individualities of taste. Anyway, here, both in Strauss and in Wagner, she sings astonishingly, quite incredibly, well. Her voice continuously sends shivers down to your spine. It flows from her mouth effortless, dense, perfectly modulated, in every register, from pianissimo to fortissimo and from an astonishing smooth cue to the end of the pitch or of the phrase. Then her voice floats, weightless but steady, in the air, perfectly melting with harmonies coming from the orchestra. But the real miracle is that such a perfect virtuoso technique is completely enslaved to meaning, in a context-sensitive masterful interpretation.

The great and humble (in the sense that he serves music and not vice-versa) Kurt Masur finds the way to englobe the gorgeous vocal leading line in harmonies and countermelodies produced by his Gewandhausorchester Leipzig without overlaps, but perfectly melting everything.
Colin Davis is one of my preferred conductors of his generation, but I did not know him in Wagner. In my opinion, his performance here is really great and matches his celebrated performances in the Berlioz's solo voice+orchestra repertoire: Le Nuits d'Ete, Lelio, Herminie, Cleopatre. He, the London Symphony and, obviously, an ineffable Jessye Norman, give thickness and interest to compositions maybe not robust enough for aiming at the sublime.

The original sound is a 1982 DDD in Strauss and a 1975 ADD in Wagner. In my opinion, Strauss sounds a bit more detailed, with well separated sound layers, but a little bit chilly and flat, while Wagner sounds warmer and deeper, but just a little bit confused. I do not like the use of headphones in listening to music, particularly to this kind of music that has to freely expand and to breath plentifully in the air; by chance I have listened to this CD also through headphones, and my personal impression is that Strauss gains something, while Wagner loses.
Anyway, the superb content of this CD will enrich you and your collection with some of the purest expressions of vocal artistry.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Jersey Norman is the best Soprano for Strauss Oct. 28 2013
By V.Dharmarajan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Having listened to almost all of Strauss heroines, including Flagsted and Fleming,
I rate Jessey as the ideal voice for Strauss
Just When I Thought I'd Heard It All... Aug. 19 2014
By Robert B. Lamm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Really - I have about a gazillion recordings of the Four Last Songs and quite a few of the Wesendonck Lieder. So when I came across this recording, I didn't suspect that it would blow me away as none of the others has been able to do. Another reviewer refers to Jessye Norman's "controlled power" - and that sums it up brilliantly. The voice can be huge, but her expressiveness is not necessarily conveyed by volume; it's conveyed by the emotion in her voice, and she knows how to use the emotion - and the voice - very well indeed. This is clearly THE recording of these great works.


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