Notes and Editorial Reviews
This remastered version of one of the great recordings of Strauss's
Four Last Songs and the
Capriccio closing scene is all the more desirable with the addition of the the sublime late orchestral piece,
This is a 'must' for all Straussians, and surely for many others.
"In Lieder on record (CUP) out this month, Michael Kennedy makes out a strong case for Karajan's
previous recording with Gundula Janowitz commenting that she has the ''Straussian voice par excellence, carrying in its tone and timbre echoes of Strauss opera heroines''. Precisely the same can be said of
Tomowa-Sintow and, like Janowitz, she captures the ''sensuous overtones'' in the passage starting ''Und die Seele'' in the third song. Indeed, I find her altogether more communicative than Janowitz and perhaps even more lovely in tone, more vibrant and appealing. Her closest rival in that respect among available versions is Te Kanawa on CBS, but somehow Dame Kiri is less idiomatic, more cautious in her rapture.
Another relevant comparison both between the earlier Karajan and the current readings is in the matter of speeds. I was astonished to find that in almost every case Karajan is a good deal swifter than his rivals and his earlier self except in the final song where the speed is virtually the same. That is all gain and gives these pieces an added urgency, less of the portentousness and self-regard that is found on the Norman/Masur Philips recording, which has certainly worn less well than I expected.
The voice is beautifully recorded, but the orchestra sometimes has that curious digital feeling of being in a no-man's-land, though the playing itself is glorious. As an interpretation the Karajan comes nearest to the Tennstedt (EMI), both glowingly tense. I would not be without either, specially as Popp is a mite more spontaneous than Tomowa-Sintow, though not so full and creamy in tone...
If you needed convincing that you must have the new DG disc, the coupling would decide the matter, for the closing scene from Capriccio provides the ideal partner to the Four Last Songs, with Die heiligen drei Konige as a light buffer between the two serious works. The only other recent version of the Four Last Songs coupled with the Capriccio closing scene is that by Soderstrom, recently reissued by EMI Eminence at budget price (EMX412091-1, 8/78—LP only). Palpitating as Soderstrom may be as Countess Madeleine, Salzburg's reigning soprano in that role seems to me to surpass her here in terms of voluptuous tone, and the two sopranos are certainly equals in suggesting the difficulty of the choice between poet and composer and the obvious feelings the Countess has for both, the passage beginning ''Du wirst geliebt'' having erotic overtones here. Karajan gives his soprano incandescent support and the playing, needless to say, is superb...This is a 'must' for all Straussians, and surely for many others.
-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone [10/1986, reviewing original issue 419 188]
Works on This Recording
Four Last Songs, AV 150 by Richard Strauss
Anna Tomowa-Sintow (Soprano)
Herbert von Karajan
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1948; Germany
Featured Sound Samples
Four Last Songs: "Beim Schlafengehen"
Capriccio: Interlude "Moonlight Music"
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