Four Last Songs: Frühling; September; Beim Schlafengehen; Im Abendrot texts by Eichendorff

Excerpts from CAPRICCIO: A Conversation Piece for Music to a text by Richard Strauss and Clemens Krauss.


In Strauss’ Conversation Piece for Music, Madeleine’s birthday is being celebrated. Among the guests are Flamand, a composer, and Olivier, a poet. Both love her. Madeleine’s brother proposes that Flamand and Olivier create an opera together. Alone, Madeleine is in turmoil thinking of the choice she must make: music or poetry? Flamand or Olivier? Soon she leaves to join her guests, not having decided.

Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs: Frühling; September; Beim Schlafengehen; Im Abendrot, with texts by Eichendorff depict symbolically the four seasons of the year as four stages of life: the youthful spring that quickly goes from the final days of summer to the dormant days of fall that soon will be transformed into a welcome tranquil end of all of life’s vicissitudes.


The vocal writing of the Four Last Songs is vintage Strauss, soaring frequently to the soprano’s top range only to dip into the depths of the singer’s lower voice. Throughout the interpreter of this music must be able to float her voice above a hefty orchestral accompaniment with seamless legato.

In Roger Pines’ well-thought words about Capriccio – easily applicable to the Last Four Songs, “After Wagnerian nonpareil Kirsten Flagstad premièred the songs in 1950, their next outstanding interpreters were renowned Mozartians Sena Jurinac and Lisa Della Casa. Since then, vocal weights heard in this music have ranged, astonishingly, from Susanna to Brünnhilde!”


American soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen’s lyric voice is ideally suited to this music, with the title role of Arabella, Diemut in Feuersnot and the Der Rosenkavalier‘s Marschallin already in her repertoire. She sings the Four Last Songs with full command of the vocally difficult music and a perfectly idiomatic mastery of the subtleties of the text of both the Four Last Songs and that of the part of Madeleine in the excerpts from Capriccio.

Andris Nelsons commandingly leads the Gewandhausorchester with punctilious attention to both the orchestral details and the needs of his soloist, eliciting an inspired performance from all his forces, his work enhanced by the top-notch work of the superb SONY release’s executive producer, Alexander Buhr, and engineer, Friedemann Engelbrecht.

Rafael de Acha (c) 2023

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