R. STRAUSS Four Last Songs. Arabella: “Das war sehr gut, Mandryka.” Capricco: “Morgan mittag um elf.” Der Rosenkavalier: “Marie Theres’! – Hab mir’s gelobt” • Markus Stenz, cond; Anne Schwanewilms (sop); Cologne Gürzenich O • ORFEO C858121A (52:47 Text and Translation)
Since the death of Richard Strauss in 1949 the torch hasRead more passed through several generations of fine soprano interpreters of his songs and his operatic roles. The list includes Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lisa Della Casa, Lucia Popp, Gundula Janowitz, and perhaps Kiri Te Kanawa and Renée Fleming, to add a couple of non-native German speakers as well. Now one of the finest of the current generation, German lyric soprano Anne Schwanewilms provides us a fine all-Strauss program with the backing of the excellent Cologne Gürenich Orchestra, featuring the Four Last Songs, extended operatic excerpts from Arabella and Capriccio, and the lovely trio from Der Rosenkavalier.
Schwanewilms provides a pure, clean, elegant tone that is produced evenly throughout her range, and she is always on pitch, which one hopes to get from a studio recording but doesn’t always. She seems to strain just a bit at the very top of her range, particularly in the first two of the Strauss songs, where the composer really challenges the singer. If the voice does not possess quite the warmth of Della Casa or the cream of Popp and Fleming, this fine German artist provides all the emotive coloration of some of the great interpreters, especially notable in the last scene excerpts from Arabella and Capriccio. Schwanewilms is nicely aided in the Rosenkavalier trio by the Octavian of Regina Richter and the Sophie of Jutta Böhnert, but I thought the acoustic to be rather reverberant with all three female voices singing. With Strauss the singer is often not the star of the show. In fact, he sometimes seemed to get so interested in writing for the orchestra that the singer got short shrift. Of course, he learned that from Wagner. The partner for Schwanewilms here, the Gürzenich Orchestra, has long familiarity with Strauss’s somewhat heavy, but always ravishing to the ear, orchestral accompaniments and their sound is all that could be wished for under leader Markus Stenz. As with Mozart, when listening to Strauss one is always noticing things in the orchestra that especially please the ear. Here the Gürzenich forces provide just such a colorful soundscape for the singer to paint upon. Balance seems to be ideal between singer and orchestra. Texts are provided in original German and English.
Orfeo presents a very nice Strauss program here, and Schwanewilms’s voice is one of those you still want to hear more of when the last track has finished. She gives us a very good Four Last Songs where the recorded competition is fierce, and her operatic excerpts rank with the best interpreters on disc. Recommended.
Four Last Songs, AV 150by Richard Strauss Performer:
Anne Schwanewilms (Soprano)
Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1948; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Use a Metronome!January 24, 2013By Basil De Pinto (Piedmont, CA)See All My Reviews"Anne Schwanewilms has been a favorite soprano of mine since I heard her as Marie in Wozzek years ago in Santa Fe. She actually sang Berg's music rather than screaming it (cf. Anja Silja). Her voice has lost none of its lustre and beauty and it is a shame that she has been so little heard in this country. In the present recording however her voice and artistry are seriously compromised by the excessively slow tempos of the conductor, Markus Stenz - presumably with the agreement of the singer. The music is dragged and contorted to an outlandish degree, destroying the line and overall shape of the Four Last Songs and the opera scenes. Schwanewilms is heard to much better advantage in the album of Strauss songs on Hyperion, accompanied by the superb pianist Roger Vignoles."Report Abuse