Author Topic: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder  (Read 11249 times)

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Offline Manish

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Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« on: October 27, 2007, 09:34:57 AM »
I love Strauss's Four Last Songs and so far have heard 4 different versions: Janowitz/Karajan, Norman/Masur, Schwarzkopf/Szell, and Studer/Sinopoli.  I think my favorits is probably the Janowitz/Karajan.  I really like Janowitz's singing. 

Are there any other versions out there I should consider?  What are everyone else's favorite?

Mark

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2007, 10:02:08 AM »
Good topic. I know little about these works, so I'm watching this thread with interest. :)

Harry

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2007, 10:19:55 AM »
I love Strauss's Four Last Songs and so far have heard 4 different versions: Janowitz/Karajan, Norman/Masur, Schwarzkopf/Szell, and Studer/Sinopoli.  I think my favorits is probably the Janowitz/Karajan.  I really like Janowitz's singing. 

Are there any other versions out there I should consider?  What are everyone else's favorite?

For me that would be Janowitz/Karajan, absolute mesmerizing. :)

Offline Expresso

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2007, 10:47:03 AM »

Quote
I love Strauss's Four Last Songs and so far have heard 4 different versions: Janowitz/Karajan, Norman/Masur, Schwarzkopf/Szell, and Studer/Sinopoli.  I think my favorits is probably the Janowitz/Karajan.  I really like Janowitz's singing. 

Are there any other versions out there I should consider?  What are everyone else's favorite?

You already have the most important recordings from these songs. My personal favourites are the ones sang by Janowitz  and Schwarzkopf.
Maybe you should also listen to Schwarzkopf/Ackerman and Della Casa/Bohm.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2007, 11:42:43 AM »
I have all three of Schwarzkopf's recordings , 1953, live 1956 and 1965, with, respectively, Ackermann, Karajan and Szell. I also have Popp/Tennstedt and Janowitz/Karajan.

I have to say, that, though I enjoy all these recordings, it is the Schwarzkopf/Szell recording I like best, as, for me, they get right to the heart of these songs as no others do. With Strauss's gorgeous writing for the soprano voice, it is all too easy to forget that these are Lieder, and to ignore the texts and just revel in the sheerly beautiful sounds, provided by a Te Kanawa, a Fleming, or indeed a Janowitz. I also feel the more mature Schwarzkopf better suited to the songs than the young one. After all, these are Autumnal songs, and the voice of youth doesn't seem quite right somehow. Certain phrases in Swhwarzkopf's later recording are now so firmly etched into my memory, that they spoil me for all others and Schwarzkopf and Szell seem to be completely at one in their vision. Two places stick out for me, Schwarzkopf's voicing of the words langsam tut er die mudgewordenen Augen zu in September, where Szell matches her tone perfectly in the orchestra. The other is in the final song, Im Abendrot. The way Schwarzkopf sings the words so tief im Abendrot has an almost cathartic release, not matched in any of her other recordings (nor by any other soprano), and superbly seconded by the rich carpet of sound Szell provides for her. Ist dies etwa der Tod, asks Schwarzkopf/Eichendorff, and as the orchestra creeps in with the quote from Tod und Verklaerung, one can only assume that it is. For me it is one of the classic discs of all time, and would definitely be one for my desert island.

« Last Edit: October 27, 2007, 11:44:15 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Mark

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2007, 12:17:46 PM »
I have all three of Schwarzkopf's recordings , 1953, live 1956 and 1965, with, respectively, Ackermann, Karajan and Szell. I also have Popp/Tennstedt and Janowitz/Karajan.

I have to say, that, though I enjoy all these recordings, it is the Schwarzkopf/Szell recording I like best, as, for me, they get right to the heart of these songs as no others do. With Strauss's gorgeous writing for the soprano voice, it is all too easy to forget that these are Lieder, and to ignore the texts and just revel in the sheerly beautiful sounds, provided by a Te Kanawa, a Fleming, or indeed a Janowitz. I also feel the more mature Schwarzkopf better suited to the songs than the young one. After all, these are Autumnal songs, and the voice of youth doesn't seem quite right somehow. Certain phrases in Swhwarzkopf's later recording are now so firmly etched into my memory, that they spoil me for all others and Schwarzkopf and Szell seem to be completely at one in their vision. Two places stick out for me, Schwarzkopf's voicing of the words langsam tut er die mudgewordenen Augen zu in September, where Szell matches her tone perfectly in the orchestra. The other is in the final song, Im Abendrot. The way Schwarzkopf sings the words so tief im Abendrot has an almost cathartic release, not matched in any of her other recordings (nor by any other soprano), and superbly seconded by the rich carpet of sound Szell provides for her. Ist dies etwa der Tod, asks Schwarzkopf/Eichendorff, and as the orchestra creeps in with the quote from Tod und Verklaerung, one can only assume that it is. For me it is one of the classic discs of all time, and would definitely be one for my desert island.



Already own the '53, but you've convinced me to add the Szell to my list for next month. ;)

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2007, 12:35:03 PM »
Already own the '53, but you've convinced me to add the Szell to my list for next month. ;)

I don't think you'll be disappointed. The contribution of the orchestra and Szell can't be ignored, and, of course, it is in much better sound than the 1953. It certainly repays repeated listening, especially when following the texts.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline The new erato

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 12:40:16 AM »

Maybe you should also listen to Schwarzkopf/Ackerman and Della Casa/Bohm.
I was scrolling down to recommend these two when I saw your post. Casa is my favorite of all.

Offline Que

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2007, 01:07:46 AM »
I see nobody has mentioned the (historical) recording by Sena Jurinac conducted by the eminent Fritz Busch!!  :o
This major omission is hereby corrected... ;D



Q

Offline Siedler

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2007, 01:46:58 AM »
No talk of the wonderful Isokoski recording with Berlin RSO and Janowski, either!

Mark

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2007, 05:45:52 AM »

Offline Siedler

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2007, 12:31:26 PM »
Ok I missed that post because I didn't click the link.  :-[

Mark

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2007, 01:28:21 PM »
Ok I missed that post because I didn't click the link.  :-[

;)

Offline knight66

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2007, 11:31:45 AM »
I am not at home just now, so cannot provide the kind of detail I would like to. However, most of the post here are not saying much beyond..I like this version. Could people take some trouble to explain what they get from the performances they treasure, it considerably adds to interest.

The first version I had was the Schwartzkopf Szell one, the pace is not allowed to lag and the singer digs into the words colouring them. There is regret especially in the final song and the overall sound picture is very well enginered. The next version I took to was Jessye Norman with Kurt Masur. This became instantly famous and much admired, though for some reason critics seem to have changed their minds and now suggest it is overblown and generalised. I don't accept either. There is detail, but not the hyper-detail of Schwartzkopf. Norman's voice is a superb instrument in this version. Her breath control while she pours out her evenly produced tone is exceptional. Next on my list has been the Janowitz with Karajan. here the voice is used much more as an instrument and although she is indeed singing the words, the meanings are not so evident, but the sound is entirely seductive. The pacing feel leasurely as against Szell and the orchestral detail is more submerged in a slightly generalised sound picture. I am not conveying the beauty of this disc, as it is the one I most often return to.

I have a number of other versions, one I especially like is Auger with Previn. He is an excellent accompanist and Auger delivers her silvery, pure tone most beautifully also making the words register.

Now folks, lets here what it is you are enamoured with; or what you don't like about some of these versions.

Mike
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Offline marvinbrown

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2007, 03:29:18 PM »
No talk of the wonderful Isokoski recording with Berlin RSO and Janowski, either!


  Glad to see that someone has mentioned this recording.  This is the recording that I have and I love it, although for some reason the Schwartzkopf on EMI seems to be "the" recording to get. 


  marvin

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2007, 08:57:40 PM »
I was scrolling down to recommend these two when I saw your post. Casa is my favorite of all.

It's Della Casa.

It's ok to omit the 'von' in von Karajan, but not the Della in Della Casa ;). OK, sorry, I know it's nettiquetly incorrect to point to that kind of thing, but it helps to not perpetuate mistakes :).

Personally I prefer Schwarzkof-Ackermann to the later remake with Szell. There's no denying the latter has special interpretive attributes, but the first version finds the soprano in better vocal form, and Ackermann sounds more like the no-nonsense, get-to-the-point kind of conductor Strauss himself was, or Böhm when  Strauss himself considered him one of his most trusted interpreters.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2007, 01:38:01 AM »

Personally I prefer Schwarzkof-Ackermann to the later remake with Szell. There's no denying the latter has special interpretive attributes, but the first version finds the soprano in better vocal form, and Ackermann sounds more like the no-nonsense, get-to-the-point kind of conductor Strauss himself was, or Böhm when  Strauss himself considered him one of his most trusted interpreters.

However, Schwarzkopf herself prefered the later recording. This was her reaction, quoted in Aland Sanders and J.B Steane's Listening with Schwarzkopf.

The earlier version [of the 4 Last Songs], with Ackermann and Karajan, had advantages in what is usually taken as the first of the somgs 'Fruhling'; yet even in this, she argued, the singer is ' the same woman...it's the same person's view of spring, and you don't really want a springlike voice'. In 'September' the voice in those earlier recordings is 'too young for the text', and a much greater depth of feeling is tapped in the final version, the one with Szell.

It again comes down to whether you take note of the texts or prefer to hear the songs as vocalises for voice and orchestra.

Incidentally the above book is a an interesting insight into Schwarzkopf's attitude to her work. She is her own severest critic, often coming down very hard on recordings of hers, that I, and no doubt many others, have come to love. On the other hand she entertains no false modesty, and when she feels something is good (not that often) is not afraid to say so.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Lilas Pastia

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2007, 03:14:22 PM »
This is a bit stretched IMO. I don't think Schwarzkopf's understanding of, and response to the texts was lacking anything in 1953. She wasn't a young chick (38 years old at the time), and intelligent as she was, I think it's wrong to intimate that Schwarzkopf was too young to understand or communicate the dramatic essence of the poems. By the same reasoning, one would firmly come down in favour of Fischer-Dieskau's later recordings of Winterreise (and the later, the better)... and yet, there's no doubting that even enhanced verbal acuity and dramatic instincts have to be taken with histrionic mannerisms and a somewhat worn vocal makeup. Same thing with Callas' Normas and Lucias.

If Schwarzkopf expressed a preference for her later recording (and she has every right to let the world know), it's probably because in her opinion the balance of advantages weighed in that direction. Mind you, if she had expressed a preference for the earlier one, many would have pointed out that a remake was an error. This is not the kind of thing an hypercritical and very proud person like her would have admitted graciously.

My personal opinion of the Schwarzkopf-Szell version is that a certain radiance is missing, replaced by heightened feelings of longing and regret. Vocally, there's no denying that she is not on the same level as previously. OTOH, Szell's conducting is pure magic. So there you have it: both versions have their qualities, but for me the earlier one works better.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2007, 03:25:55 PM by Lilas Pastia »

longears

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2007, 03:26:22 PM »
This is a desert island piece for me.  I have several recordings.  My favorites are the first three you mentioned, Janowitz/Karajan, Schwarzkopf/Szell, and Norman/Masur, with Auger/Previn and Isokoski/Janowski right in there.  Wish there were a Janowitz/Janowski!

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Strauss' Four Last Songs / Vier Letzte Lieder
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2007, 12:31:40 PM »
Same thing with Callas' Normas and Lucias.




And, here we differ too. I actually much prefer Callas's 2nd Norma, feeling that her greater understanding of the role has its rewards, and, to be honest, though the top of the voice has hardened, the middle register is now more beautiful. Admittedly, it is harder to ignore the vocal frailties in the second Lucia di Lammermoor, but, the greater depth she brings to the role still has its own rewards and her passage work is actually smoother, at least in the middle and lower registers.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas