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Philips 50 - Strauss: Four Last Songs; Wagner: Wesendonk

Release Date: 12/18/2000 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 464742   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard StraussRichard Wagner
Performer:  Jessye Norman
Conductor:  Kurt MasurSir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Jessye Norman’s justly celebrated recording of Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs gains slightly more clarity in this remastering for the Philips 50 series. It’s still quite a thrill to hear her rich voice taking wing with such power and ease at the beginning of Frühling, or the almost unbelievable crescendo after the violin solo in Beim Schlafengehen (sound clip). In quieter moments, like the closing pages of Im Abendrot, Norman captivates with sustained quiet tones with amazingly concentrated intensity. She still tends to sound a bit mannered at times (a quality not found in Gundala Janowitz’s freer and fleeter performance with Karajan), but she and Kurt Masur deliver one of the most satisfying readings of this work on disc.
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Also satisfying was the original coupling of six more Strauss orchestral songs, which strangely has been replaced by Norman’s earlier (1975) recording of Wagner’s relentlessly moribund Wesendonk-Lieder with Colin Davis. Yes, she does sing them with the requisite gravity and solemnity, but how Philips thought this made for a better album is beyond me. Furthermore, why weren’t the Strauss songs left on the disc anyway (as indicated in the reproduced original release cover)? There was certainly room to include them–or does “Philips 50? mean CDs of less than 50 minutes in length?

-- Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Four Last Songs, AV 150 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano)
Conductor:  Kurt Masur
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1948; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1982 
Venue:  Leipzig, Germany 
Length: 25 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: German 
Wesendonck Lieder by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jessye Norman (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1858; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1975 
Venue:  London, England 
Length: 22 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Language: German 

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