£16 post free World-wide

 


555 sonatas 9Cds mp3 files
Only £22


 


Benjamin: Written on Skin £16

Search
What's New
Previous CDs
Concerts
Jazz
Nostalgia
Composers
Resources
Announce
Labels index


Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider


BRAHMS Complete Edition
58CD £95.22


Shostakovich 14 Petrenko


Rachmaninov #3
Prokofiev #2

 


Dunedin Consort

Peter Grimes

Hymn of Jesus: Sea Drift

Complete Mozart Edition
Mozart complete edition

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 5 & 8 £11

Weiner, Klepper, Bloch, Schulhoff £12 post free


Available again

alternatively Classicsonline Crotchet

 

Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), Op. posth., TrV 296 (1948) [22:54]
1. Frühling (Hesse) [3:43]
2. September (Hesse) [5:10]
3. Beim Schlafengehen (Hesse) [5:58]
4. Im Abendrot (Eichendorff) [8:04]
Brentano-Lieder, Op. 68, TrV 235 (1918, orch. 1933 (10) and 1940) [28:40]
5. An die Nacht [3:20]
6. Ich wollt’ ein Sträusslein binden [3:36]
7. Säusle, liebe Myrte! [5:35]
8. Als mir dein Lied erklang [4:08]
9. Amor! [3:39]
10. Lied der Frauen [8:22]
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, TrV 228a (excerpts) (1912) [8:47]
11. The Opera: Overture [3:16]
12. The Opera: Dance Scene [5:30]
Ricarda Merbeth (soprano) (1-10)
Weimar Staatskapelle/Michael Halász
rec. 28-30 August 2006, Weimarhalle, Weimar, Germany.  DDD
NAXOS 8.570283 [60:21]


Experience Classicsonline


To record Richard Strauss orchestral songs is a tall order for any soprano and Ricarda Merbeth is brave enough to step up to the challenge. The German-born singer is no stranger to the work of her fellow countryman Richard Strauss. In 2004 she sang the leading role in the opera Daphne under Semyon Bychkov for the Vienna State Opera; in 2006 she was the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at the Vienna State Opera and later in the year sang the Empress in Frau ohne Schatten at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse.

The feature work here is the posthumously published set of Four Last Songs. The main stumbling block here for Merbeth is that these Strauss masterworks have been recorded by many of the world’s greatest sopranos and the competition in the catalogues is particularly intense.

The Four Last Songs are often classed as amongst the most haunting and moving music that has ever been composed. To me this is autumnal music, suffused with nostalgia, the colours of sunset and the experience of a long, productive and controversial life. The settings of Hesse (the first three songs) and Eichendorff (the fourth song) contemplate Spring (Frühling); September; Going to sleep (Beim Schlafengehen) and In twilight (Im Abendrot). Strauss had the benefit of the great Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad performing at the 1950 premiere at London’s Royal Albert Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler.

Ricarda Merbeth has a warm and sturdy voice, although as heard in the opening song Frühling, when she exerts pressure her vibrato becomes conspicuous and causes a degree of unsteadiness. I enjoyed her fine rendition of the second song September which is movingly sung together with an impressive horn solo. The third song Beim Schlafengehen is perhaps her finest performance of the set, aptly displaying a fine articulation. The orchestral accompaniment is of a high quality and the violin solo is played with immediacy and sensitivity. In Im Abendrot, the last and longest of the Four Last Songs, Merbeth demonstrates considerable craft in a highly affecting performance.

Amongst the wealth of versions of the Four Last Songs probably the best known are those from Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/EMI, Jessye Norman/Philips, Cheryl Studer/Deutsche Grammophon, Soile Isokoski/Ondine, Lisa della Casa/Decca, Felicity Lott/Chandos, Renée Fleming/RCA Victor, Kirsten Flagstad/Testament, Lucia Popp/EMI, Anna Tomowa-Sintow/Deutsche Grammophon and Kiri Te Kanawa on Sony.

My premier Four Last Songs recommendation is the landmark recording performed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. For this stunning version Schwarzkopf, then in her fifties, demonstrates a tremendous range of interpretative insight with a voice of heavenly beauty. Accompanied by the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under George Szell this truly classic recording from Berlin in 1965 is on a superb digitally remastered disc of Great Recordings of the Century EMI Classics 5 66908 2 (c/w Strauss 12 orchestral songs to words by Burger, Dehmel, Bierbaum).

I highly value the ravishing award-winning 1982 Leipzig version performed by Jessye Norman with Kurt Masur conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Norman’s interpretation of rich and passionate tones can melt the stoniest of hearts. My recording is on Philips 411 052-2 (c/w Strauss 6 orchestral songs to words by Hart, Mackay, Falke).

Another impressive version of the Four Last Songs that I found especially captivating is from the creamy-textured and expressive Cheryl Studer accompanied by the Dresden Staatskapelle under Giuseppe Sinopoli. Studer made the recording in Dresden in 1993 for Deutsche Grammophon 439 865-2. The valuable coupling is Studer’s splendid performance of the Wagner Wesendonck Lieder and the Vorspiel and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.

I accord with the substantial group of admirers who old the Four Last Songs from the assured Soile Isokoski in high esteem. Isokoski conveys a firm and silvery timbre. The recording was made in 2001 at Berlin with Marek Janowski and the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin on Ondine ODE 982-2 (c/w Strauss 11 orchestral songs to words by Klopstock, Brentano, Dehmel).

By comparison the set of Six Brentano-Lieder Op. 68 has been neglected in the recording studios. They date from after the Great War in 1918 and are to poems by Clemens Brentano. The first song Strauss orchestrated was Lied der Frauen in 1933 and the remaining five were orchestrated later in 1940.

In the opening song, An die Nacht, Merbeth displays her highest registers to agreeable effect. The songs Ich wollt’ ein Sträusslein binden and Säusle, liebe Myrte! are given powerful, if at times, rather unsteady performances. With Als mir dein Lied erklang she is a passionate and fragrant interpreter. Although there is some shakiness the soprano has little problem rapidly ascending to the high notes. The song Amor! is a testing proposition for any singer but Merbeth faces this with an impressive boldness, although she is not entirely at her most comfortable. The extended final song of the set, Lied der Frauen again provides considerable challenges that are clearly within this singer’s compass. Despite some lack of vocal security she is fresh and expressive providing a splendidly heart-rending conclusion.

To fill up the disc there are two orchestral excerpts from Ariadne auf Naxos. The first orchestral work is the Overture followed by the Dance Scene in which the Weimar Staatskapelle under Michael Halász provide appealingly musical performances.

Throughout both cycles of the Four Last Songs and the Brentano-Lieder, and the Ariadne auf Naxos excerpts Halász conducts stylish performances that provide excellent support for the enthusiastic soloist. For my taste an additional degree of orchestral opulence would have provided a more authentic Straussian sound.

The Naxos label has adopted the annoying practice here of only making the sung texts and translations available on their website.

The recorded sound from the Weimarhalle is produced to a decent standard as are the booklet notes by Keith Anderson.

Soprano Ricarda Merbeth performs an enjoyable recital. However, I feel there is nothing outstanding on this issue to get too excited about. The competition for excellent recordings of the Four Last Songs remains astonishingly fierce.

Michael Cookson 

See also Review by Göran Forsling February RECORDING OF THE MONTH




 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.