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  • Strauss: Four Last Songs; 6 Orchestral Songs
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Strauss: Four Last Songs; 6 Orchestral Songs

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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$22.97 $5.97

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. Vier Letzte Lieder - 1. FrühlingKurt Masur 3:46$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Vier Letzte Lieder - 2. SeptemberKurt Masur 5:32$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Vier Letzte Lieder - 3. Beim SchlafengehenKurt Masur 6:10Album Only
listen  4. Vier Letzte Lieder - 4. Im AbendrotKurt Masur 9:59$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  5. R. Strauss: Caecilie, Op.27, No.2Kurt Masur 2:19$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. R. Strauss: Morgen, Op.27, No.4Kurt Masur 3:59$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. R. Strauss: Wiegenlied, Op.41, No.1Kurt Masur 5:15Album Only
listen  8. Ruhe, Meine Seele, Op.27, No.1Kurt Masur 4:31$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  9. R. Strauss: Meinem Kinde, Op.37, No.3Kurt Masur 2:45$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen10. R. Strauss: Zueignung, Op.10, No.1Kurt Masur 1:50$1.29  Buy MP3 

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Jessye Norman is one of the most celebrated artists of our century. She is also among the most distinguished in a long line of American sopranos who refused to believe in limits, a shining member of an artistic pantheon that has included Rosa Ponselle, Maria Callas, Leontyne Price and now this daughter of Augusta, Georgia. "Pigeonholing," said Norman, "is only interesting to ... Read more in Amazon's Jessye Norman Store

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Product Details

  • Performer: Jessye Norman
  • Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
  • Conductor: Kurt Masur
  • Composer: Richard Strauss
  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000040VV
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,617 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Lovers of the Four Last Songs have come to take good recordings of the set for granted. Jessye Norman's early digital account with Kurt Masur and the Leipzigers is one of the best--powerful, sensuous, and very well recorded. Strauss may have conceived the songs with an ideal voice in mind, but he made a point of asking that Kirsten Flagstad give the first performance of the set. Since then, no comparably endowed soprano, in possession of both the tonal richness and the extraordinary amplitude that were Flagstad's, has recorded the Four Last Songs, save for Norman. The tessitura of the cycle is perfect for her--not too high, with almost every phrase lying in the warm, lustrous middle part of the voice--and Norman shapes the words with consummate skill and sensitivity. To hear her soar out over the orchestra, carrying the most demanding phrases with long-breathed splendor, is to enjoy, for a moment, the return of a golden age. --Ted Libbey

Customer Reviews

I sat in the back of the hall, and it was as if she were singing 5 feet in front of me!
Philip May
It is often gentle without being delicate -- much of the beauty is in the strength of voice apparent even in the quieter passages.
David Adams
As well as appalling sound, she seems to rush the first song, before settling down for the others.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael Newberry on March 29, 2000
Format: Audio CD
My two choices for Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss are the Norman and the Schwarzkopf versions. Going by sound Jessye Norman and Kurt Masur combine to make beautifully phrasing-her sound is rich, pure, and arches over the heavens. By comparison Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's voice sounds a tad smaller, but her interpretation of both the music and the lyrics is integrated so well that you are swept into the conception of the piece. In song 2, SEPTEMBER, when she sings, Lange noch bei den Rosen, Bleibt er stenhen, sehnt sich nach Ruh, (Long by the roses, it tarries, yearns for rest), I can feel the length of the stem and the bloom of the rose and I feel I am calm, lying in a quiet garden. But my first choice is the Norman, my soul takes wing and I am gone! Both have good booklets, with German text and English translations, though the text and translation is not side by side in the Norman. They both included several other Strauss songs with full orchestra, equally excellent.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Laon on May 29, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Summary: want the best Four Last Songs? Buy this. But buy the all-Strauss program in preference to the newer release in which the Four Last Songs are coupled with the Wagner Wesendonk Lieder instead. However, both are recommended.
There are so many great recordings of this piece, especially Kiri te Kanawa, Fleming, Caballe, Eaglen, Lott, Rothenberger. And there are also recordings where arguably the voice is the wrong kind of Strauss voice, the lighter, more silvery kind, for example Lisa della Casa and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, who despite that reservation both give us wonderful recordings. The only recording I know that I wouldn't recommend is Anna Tomowa-Sintow's thin-toned effort with Karajan.
(One of history's small tragedies is that Flagstad never gave us a proper studio recording of this music. She gave the first performance with Furtwangler, of which a scratchy recording exists, apparently taken off the radio. As well as appalling sound, she seems to rush the first song, before settling down for the others. But a proper studio recording, with good engineering and relaxed conditions, and Flagstad in full voice was denied us: I hope Richard Strauss gets to hear it in heaven.)
But even with a piece that is so often so well recorded there has to be a best, and in this case it's a clear best: Jessye Norman's is the Holy Grail of Four Last Songs recordings. While Schwarzkopf might have the edge over her for word-pointing, Norman has a huge, even unfair advantage: these songs are supposed to bathe us in warm, chocolate-liqueur sound, creamy and voluptuous as (well, I won't say what, here); and Norman has that richness and warmth and to spare. With all that beauty, the depth of her interpretation is a bonus, almost too much to hope for, but here it is, delivered.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Some recordings captured when singers were at their splendid best (and now thankfully digitally remastered so that the acoustics remain au courrant) are simply staples of the music library. This recording made in 1982 (!) remains a benchmark in the great recordings of Richard Strauss' magnificent 'Vier letzte Lieder', right up there along with Schwarzkopf, Janowitz, and Popp. In collaboration with Kurt Mazur and the Gewandhaus Orchestra, this reading of the 'Four Last Songs' is languid, full of recall of a life spent and resignation to the concept of mortality.

Norman takes her time with the beauty of the phrases, lingering over each of the thoughts and contemplative passages, and sounding absolutely luxurious of tone and intelligence. For those deeply moved by some of the non-Philip Glass music used in 'The Hours' film, then here is the recording used as background in Clarice's home as she prepares her party for her dying friend.

Equally lush are the accompanying Norman readings of six of Strauss' more familiar songs for voice and orchestra: 'Caecelie', 'Morgen', 'Wiegenlied', 'Ruhe, meine Seele', 'Meinem Kinde', and 'Zueignung'. Bliss, this. For soul enrichment place this miraculous CD to play in a quiet room at sunset and the subsequent gloaming and feel this Norman conquest. Grady Harp, February 2005
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Protsik on January 6, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I first heard Jessye Norman's recording of Four Last Songs sometime in the late 1980s. I remember vividly working in my office one late afternoon when I became aware of some other-wordly sound coming from my radio. Within minutes my co-worker Ilene walked in and without a word started to listen with me, enthalled by by both Norman's voice and the beauty of these Strauss Lieder. Since then I have listed to the recording perhaps two hundred times, as well as to several other recordings and live performances of the work (most recently at Tangelwood in 2000), and still have not lost my wonder for the piece.
Most remarkable are the matching sonorities of the Gewandhaus orchestra and Norman's voice, and the astonishing control Norman has over her breathing. No other soloist of this work I am sware of extends her legatos the way Norman does, especially in the final "Im Abendrot." The interplay of voice and orchestra in the lines "So tief im Abendrot" breaks my heart every time, and is there anything in music to compare to the violin solo in "Beim Schlafengehen"?
Years from now, when I'm ready to pack it in and looking for one single recording to play as I slip into the "broad, slow peace" of whatever lies beyond, I cannot imagine it will be anything other than Norman's Vier Letzte Lieder.
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