One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


Buywell Just Classical


Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Wiegenlied [4.29] (1); Das Rosenband [3.23] (1); Liebeshymnus [2.19] (1); Das Bächlein [2.16] (1); Morgen [3.55] (1); Gesang der Apollopriesterin [7.34] (1); Freundliche Vision [2.52] (1); Cäcilie [2.12] (1); Verführung [7.48] (1); Frühlingsfeier [3.05] (1); Waldseligkeit [2.54] (1); Four Last Songs [22.33] (2)
Christine Schäfer (soprano) (1); Karita Mattila (soprano) (2)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
rec. Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin, 1997 (1); Grosser Saal, Berlin Philharmonie, Berlin 1998 (2)
Experience Classicsonline

What sort of voice did Pauline Strauss have? She was a professional singer when she first met Richard Strauss and he seems have been inspired by her voice, writing a considerable number of songs for her. Before she retired from stage she had sung Elisabeth (Tannhäuser), Agathe (Die Freischutz), Leonore (Fidelio) and Donna Anna which implies a voice of some size. But elsewhere she is described as having a voice which was neither large nor beautiful. It should be admitted that the majority of songs which Strauss wrote for her were lieder, with just piano accompaniment.

Strauss did, however, arrange many of his songs for voice and orchestra and it is in these versions that they have become well known, but this takes us further and further from Pauline’s voice. In 1918 for instance, Strauss arranged a number of songs for Elisabeth Schumann. And it is Elisabeth Schumann that Christine Schäfer brings to mind in this disc of Strauss songs.

It is not a new disc, Schäfer’s contribution first appeared in 1998 in tandem with songs by Mozart. And Mattila’s Four Last Songs first appeared in 1999 on an all-Strauss disc. Now Eloquence have chosen to combine the two to create this mixed recital.

Schäfer sings the Strauss songs with a wonderfully silvery voice, a superb sense of line and a very old-fashioned feeling of pureness and focus. She does not use vibrato to widen and enrich the voice so that in many ways she as akin to earlier interpreters like Elisabeth Schumann. You only have to listen to Wiegenlied or Waldseligkeit to marvel at the way Schäfer can thin her tone down or spin out glorious silvery high notes. These are very much songs sung by Sophie (from Der Rosenkavalier).

It isn’t all about vocal quality. In fact she combines this with a good feeling for the words. Schäfer realises that these are songs, not vocalises. She clearly articulates the texts and weds their meaning to the music.

But if you listen to a couple of the bigger, stormier numbers, such as Frühlingsfeier or Gesang der Apollopriesterin there is a feeling that her voice does not respond entirely well to pressure. If these songs are sung by Sophie then she is a Sophie who will not be developing into a Marschallin. On this disc Schäfer’s voice seems entirely to lack the possibility that age and pressure might make a bigger, richer instrument. For this, we must be entirely glad. But it does mean that in these stormy numbers the voice turns a little steely and you get the feeling that she is only weathering the storm with some determination.

You might want to have these songs sung by a more refulgent voice, by a Marschallin rather than a Sophie. But you need refulgence combined with purity and accuracy. These are not songs which can be sung flabbily. This explains the number of relatively light-voiced singers who have had success with Strauss’s orchestral songs. So on balance I would say that Schäfer’s performances of the Strauss songs are ones that I would not want to be without.

The disc is completed by Karita Mattila’s account of the Four Last Songs. Mattila is definitely the Marschallin to Schäfer’s Sophie. She sings the songs with darker, richer tones than Schäfer, whilst retaining purity and flexibility. Though the Four Last Songs were premiered by Kirsten Flagstad, it should be remembered that Flagstad had a relatively unusual vocal development as she spent the first eighteen years of her career singing only in Scandinavia and sang roles which ranged from Wagner to operetta and musical comedy. This meant that she allied remarkable focus and flexibility to power. Few modern day Wagner sopranos could hope to tackle the Four Last Songs with anything like the flexibility and accuracy required.

Whilst I can admire classic recordings by singers like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Lucia Popp, frankly I want them performed by bigger, richer voices. But achieving this richness without compromising power and accuracy is tricky.

Mattila, with a voice which combines richness with power and flexibility, would seem well placed to create an ideal performance. In many ways she is superb, turning in a vocal part which is gloriously rich, but with a strong sense of line. She has the tonal control to give us the sheer beauty in these songs which bears comparison with recordings by sopranos such as Gundula Janowitz. But in the faster passages her technical control sometimes lets her down. There are short passages in Frühling which are rather flabby.

More importantly, for many people, will be Mattila’s rather generalised feeling for the text. She entirely fails to deliver the sort of textual intensity which Schäfer gives us.

Both singers are beautifully accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic under Abbado. As might be expected from this orchestra and conductor, the singers are well supported but never overwhelmed and Abbado brings out the brilliance of Strauss’s orchestration.

This is not my ideal set of Strauss songs, but it comes moderately close and gives us some superb Strauss singing.

Robert Hugill



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1


Cantatas and Organ Works

Complete Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Simone Dinnerstein piano




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


      Composer surveys
      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

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


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

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



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

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
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
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
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.