Lisa della Casa's is indeed the classic recording of the 'Four Last Songs', Strauss' final will and testament in the vocal genre. The doyen of Strauss conductors, Karl Böhm is the expert accompanist and the inimitable VPO bring out all the mystical and fantastic pathos that permeates these works. 'September' and Bem Schaflagen' are wonderfully imaginative and relaxed, a complete contrast to Szell's more expansive version with the BRSO and Schwarzkopf of ten years later. The surprise is in 'Im Abendrot' where the fast tempo is what Strauss actually indicated and this makes the work all the more thrilling in its chilling evocation of death so dragged out by contemporary conductors.
Rudolf Moralt is the conductor in the extensive scenes from 'Arabella', another della Casa speciality. Hilde Gueden, Paul Schoeffler and Alfred Poell, all stalwarts of the Vienna State Opera, join her here and the only pity is that the opera was not recorded in its entirety! 'Capriccio' was another opera dear to della Casa's heart and the beauty of the final scene is perfectly captured in this recording. The same could be said for her trenchant and boisterous rendition of Ariadne's monologue from 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. Heinrich Hollreiser conducts the VPO with understanding and sympathetic empathy for the music.
The Musikverein recordings from 1953/4 have come up as clear as possible and confirms the high stndard of execution prevalent in those days. With lavish Legends treatment including extensive notes, photographs and full texts and translations, this issue is now the definite recommendation for these works.
Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech