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Strauss: Arabella, Four Last Songs / Keilberth, Della Casa, Fischer-dieskau

Release Date: 10/25/2005 
Label:  Orfeo D'or Catalog #: 651053   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Georg SternLisa Della CasaKurt RuescheAnneliese Rothenberger,   ... 
Conductor:  Joseph KeilberthKarl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

An engrossing account of the opera is crowned by a superb Four Last Songs

A performance recorded in Munich in 1963 had the same Arabella, Mandryka and conductor [ DG 000576402]. That production originated in 1958 at the Salzburg Festival and it is a broadcast of its auspicious first night that appears for the first time on disc. That was also the year Decca recorded the work with Della Casa under Solti, so there are interesting comparisons. What cannot be in dispute is that the part of Arabella might have been written for Della Casa. Excellent as some of her successors
Read more may have been, she remains supreme. In 1958 she was at her vocal and interpretative peak: everything she does ravishes the senses. To an even greater extent than in the studio, she inhabits the character from start to finish. Haughty and off-hand with previous lovers, she aurally melts when coming across ‘Der Richtige’, the right man for her, in the person of Mandryka. The softness and glow of her singing at the end of Act 1 and the start of Act 2 is balm to the ear, as are her ravishing pianissimi throughout. Then, when Mandryka unjustly accuses her of infidelity, the tremble suggests all the hurt he is causing her. That’s banished when all is cleared up in the ineffably beautiful finale; a memorable climax to a great portrayal.

Fischer-Dieskau, as I recall on the stage, was the rough-hewn, impulsive Mandryka to the life. His performance has enormous presence and vitality but he is rather inclined to go into his hectoring mode, with line-breaking over-emphases. George London on Decca may be preferred. The Adelaide and Waldner are common to Orfeo and Decca, both admirable in depicting the Viennese bourgeoisie. As Zdenka, Hilde Gueden (Decca) is slightly preferable to Rothenberger on Orfeo and DG because of her greater ease on high. Anton Dermota (Decca) is a more fluent Matteo than Karl Ruesche, a tenor unknown to me.

Keilberth lays a lighter, more lyrical hand on the score than Solti but unfortunately makes the common and disfiguring cuts in Act 3. The Decca set enjoys early stereo against Orfeo’s mono. But Della Casa, caught on the wing and in freshest voice, is not be missed.

A clinching factor may be the inclusion of the Four Last Songs, recorded at Salzburg the night after the Arabella. Here she, Böhm and the VPO renew their famous alliance in this work from their classic 1953 recording on Decca, though that’s out of the catalogue at the time of writing. Unlike other interpreters they still start with ‘Beim Schlafengehen’. In other respects there are improvements. Speeds overall are a little slower, allowing for subtler shades of colouring, more intensity of feeling, and the voice itself is more rounded. It seems a version that fulfils every one of the work’s exigent demands, and surpasses even those by Schwarzkopf, Popp and Janowitz for sheer tonal beauty and sheen, placing it in my book as the most favoured reading, although it has to be said that the orchestral palette is restricted by modern standards.

Alan Blyth, The GRAMOPHONE
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Works on This Recording

Arabella, Op. 79 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Georg Stern (Bass), Lisa Della Casa (Soprano), Kurt Ruesche (Tenor),
Anneliese Rothenberger (Soprano), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Kerstin Meyer (Alto),
Wilhelm Lenninger (Tenor), Otto Edelmann (Baritone), Helmut Melchert (Tenor),
Ira Malaniuk (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1929-1932; Germany 
Venue:  Live  Festival House, Salzburg, Austria 
Language: German 
Notes: Festival House, Salzburg, Austria (07/29/1958 - 07/30/1958) 
Four Last Songs, AV 150 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Lisa Della Casa (Soprano), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1948; Germany 
Venue:  Live  Festival House, Salzburg, Austria 
Language: German 
Notes: Festival House, Salzburg, Austria (07/29/1958 - 07/30/1958) 

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