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Strauss: Four Last Songs / Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder Import, Original recording remastered

5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Original recording remastered, December 18, 2000
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Vier letzte Lieder
  2. Vier letzte Lieder
  3. Vier letzte Lieder
  4. Vier letzte Lieder
  5. Wesendonk - Lieder
  6. Wesendonk - Lieder
  7. Wesendonk - Lieder
  8. Wesendonk - Lieder
  9. Wesendonk - Lieder


Product Details

  • Performer: Jessye Norman
  • Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Kurt Masur, Colin Davis
  • Composer: Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner
  • Audio CD (December 18, 2000)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000523QL
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,014 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew J. Williams on December 19, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This recording of Strauss' four last songs towers over the recorded history of that work. More than any other rendition Norman can claim to evince the songs as Flagstad premiered them with huge Wagnerian waves of sound. Norman will thrill, delight, amaze and pin you to your seat until she is finished.
Unfortunately Masur chose some ridiculously slow speeds but you can get used to those. Generally you'll be too distracted by Norman to notice, so it's not a big problem. At least nothing is too fast, which in these songs is the greater sin.
The Vier Letzte Lieder was originally coupled with six Strauss lieder performances (still available at full price) and one can't help feeling a little short-changed that Phillips replaced these with the Wessendonck-lieder, losing many delights in the process (and a reasonable amount of listening time).
The Wagner is a good performance (it could hardly be less from Norman), but I can't bring myself to call it 'great'. Studer (again coupled with an indispensable if less-known vier letzte lieder) and Eaglen (with a poor Strauss but excellent Berg) both bring something more beautiful and more interesting to these songs.
In the end, unless you really only want the vier letzte lieder, the mid-price repackaging is a bit of a farce, as you only get two-thirds of the music. You may as well pay for the full price recording and get the other Strauss lieder instead - they're more worthwhile than the Wessendonck-lieder in any case.
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Format: Audio CD
Richard Strauss wrote the Four Last Songs in 1948, when he was in his 80s, and a year away from his own death. His country had been devastated by the Second World War, and it was from the lofty plateau of a wiser old age that he looks back with these wonderful reflections on mortality and the rich beauty of life. I think the Four Last Songs the best thing Strauss wrote.
Many will debate their favourite recordings. There are different strengths to different performances. For me, Jessye Norman has the controlled power to make this the standout performance so far recorded. Kurt Masur's conducting is superb, and the Gewandhaus produces all the calm variation of this rich score.
Whilst Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder are a very satisfying addition, they do not reach the ethereal heights of the Strauss.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
My parents used to own this in the 80's/90s and I grew up listening to it constantly. I was so happy to see such a lovingly remastered recording of this. Jessye's voice is pristine, rich, and so full of color and depth. This will always be on my top 10 favorite recordings mixed in with all the pop/ jazz/ and rock in my collection too. No one's four last songs compares.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There are 2 CD types of the same recording of the tunes, with this being the 96kHz/24bit remaster of the original. The Strauss 4 Last Songs were published in 1983 per the CD jacket; so that's 33 years ago. Many of the cycles of this Strauss composition group were recorded years ago. Why are they still in the market? There must be a reason. I have listened to Norman, Schwarzkopf, Popp, and Studer. Unquestionably Norman's is the BEST. Her voice is so voluptuous, so she just sang them effortlessly. Particularly, I like Im Abendrot. Being so calmly presenting it suits like a "T" I thought. Her singing just "flows" in the airwaves over. The only pity is that it's an old recording. The remastering gives a better transparency. I consider myself an audiophile (play with hi-fi equipment, and use fine recordings to showcase the equipment's merits). With Norman's version, no matter it's advanced age, it's fine wine. The other ladies didn't come close. Schwarzkopf's I'd say ranks 2nd. There's the Nebrebko I was tempted to buy because it's a more modern recording. But, reading what others said about the recording, I decided to save $20. Will see if I can get it from other sources. As of now, Norman's is tops. The 24-bit remastering gives it more transparency, but it's still a dated recording; its age shows.
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Format: Audio CD
This CD unifies the "cores" (evidently in Philips opinion) of two (or three, counting the original issue of Strauss' Lieder) other issues. From these two R Strauss: Four Last Songs - Strauss, R.: Four Last Songs etc are omitted 6 other Strauss' Orchesterlieder, from this one Wagner : Tristan und Isolde & Wesendonk - Lieder /Jessye Norman are omitted the Tristan und Isolde Prelude and Isoldes Liebestod. The Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder gain the Super Digital Transfer (96kHz-24bit). Indeed, the result is a CD a bit empty (47'41"), but here the matter is quality and not quantity.

Strauss' four last songs are absolute masterpieces. The lyrics of three of them are by Hermann Hesse (one of my favorite writers and poets); the lines of the fourth lied are by Joseph von Eichendorff. Therefore, the mastery and the mellow artistry of the last Richard Strauss (here saying a serene adieu to his earthly experience and preparing to the next life of his soul) joined to the high poetry of Hesse/Eichendorff create the miracle.

In my opinion Wagner's lieder stay, from an artistic point of view, one or two steps below. Mathilde Wesendonk's lyrics are quite good and touching, but obviously hers is an amateur poetry and it suffers a bit from mannerism and a Decadent posture. The orchestration is not by Wagner, but by Felix Mottl. He is an excellent Wagnerian specialist and a gifted musician, but the orchestral effect lacks the involving density and originality of the Master.
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