Heather Harper / Richard Hickox / London Symphony Orchestra

Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs; Songs with Orchestra

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EMI's reissue of Heather Harper's 1988 Strauss recital includes Four Last Songs and 12 of the composer's other songs with orchestral accompaniment. Harper doesn't have the sumptuous voice to compete with the legendary sopranos noted for this lush repertoire, but taken on their own terms, hers are lovely and deeply felt performances. In the Four Last Songs, her creamy, floating, agile top is heard to best advantage in "Frühling" and "Beim Schlafengehen." "September" and "Im Abenrot" have low-lying sections that don't sound entirely unforced. The remaining songs span the composer's long career. Some were originally conceived as orchestral songs, and others are the composer's later orchestrations of early works for voice and piano. They show the composer at his most melodically generous and harmonically most effulgent. Harper's singing is generally freer here; she has chosen songs that don't push uncomfortably at her lowest register and that allow her to rhapsodically soar over the orchestra. Some occasionally forceful final consonants betray her as a non-native German speaker, but except for those brief moments, Harper's performance is warm, serene, and sensuous. The performances by the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Richard Hickox, are timbrally rich, but the orchestra doesn't quite convey the nuanced ease with this material that's more likely to be heard from Germanic ensembles. Michael Davis plays the violin solos with gorgeous warmth and intensity.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), for soprano & orchestra, o.Op. 150 (TrV 296, AV 150)
1 03:32
2 04:16
3 04:57
4 07:21
5 01:59
6 06:53
7 03:27
8 02:41
9 04:03
10 03:22
11 03:10
12 02:27
13 01:51
14 05:51
15 05:15
16 01:58
blue highlight denotes track pick