The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (253): Richard Strauss, Good night

The best song he ever wrote,in themost memorable performance.


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  • Karita Mattila with Abbado and Berlin from 1996 IMO is the most completely satisfying musically. Not the most opulent sounding (lees reverb than the others), but definitely the most lyrical. Big chamber music.

  • I don’t know if it’s “the best song” Strauss ever wrote (NL loves his absolutes), but it surely is beautiful, and Jessye had the voice to sing it. She sings wonderfully here, with a gorgeous sound and sensitive interpretation, and thank heavens I don’t have to watch her extremely off-putting facial tics and grimaces during this clip.

  • Certainly a memorable performance. To say in view of the other great recorded performances it is ‘the most memorable’ is perhaps a little OTT. But great to hear it.

  • Yes, the Jesse Norman is unsurpassed but I have a very soft spot for Lucia Popp and Klaus Tennstedt with the LPO in 1982. Both left us before their time.

    • I actually heard Lucia Popp sing these songs in the Acropolis , Nice. The very last time I heard her. She was already quite ill and hers was a very different voice in size to wonderful Jessye Norman’s naturally , but she made every word and note count. It was magical. A beautiful and in many ways uplifting end to life.
      A few months earlier she ‘guested ‘ as the Marschallin at the opera house there ( not a Sophie by then ) and as it was my very first season in opera I got to sing some of the smaller roles and to chat with her. A very special singer – not to be forgotten, especially in Mozart and Strauss.

  • I share Greg Bottini’s gratitude for the absence of visible grimaces such as disfigured Norman’s Sieglinde with Gary Lakes and Kurt Moll. For the third time, I found Hunding the best singer in Walkuere Act I. That was not the case with Lotte Lehmann, Melchior. Bruno Walter, and poor Emanuel List.

    I saw Norman and Schwarzkopf sing the Four Last Songs. Norman soared above the orchestra as Flagstad did, but there were even fewer words. Schwarzkopf gave me Hesse’s and Von Eichendorff’s words with a sense of their place in the history of German Lieder. I want to hear clearly words such as “Langsam tut mir die mutgewordenen Augen zu’.

    In the contest for Strauss’s best song, “Im Abendrot” and the exquisite “Wiegenlied” from Schwazkopf and Gerald Moore have a claim.

    And Greg, Norman was brought on stage through the fortunately double doors accessing thetimpani and percussion.

    Flagstad and Furtwaengler, Janowitz and Karajan, Della Casa and Boehm, the earliest Ljuba Welitsch with piano, three Schwarzkopfs with Otto Ackermann/Dennis Brain, Karajan, and Szell are to hand. If I can have the first note of Boehm’s “Im Abendrot” with perfectly judged sunfall and drum-stroke then I am a happy man to dissolve into the perfect cadence with Schwarzkopf, tonality swimming, gears meshing, homing to finality in the last song there will ever be.

    • Hi Edgar,
      I’ve never heard a live performance of the Four Last Songs, but on record the finest in my opinion are Schwarzkopf/Ackermann and Janowitz/Karajan.
      You mention Della Casa, Flagstad, and Welitsch; they are also marvelous.
      BTW, the nickname for Jessye among Tower Records employees was “Jessye Enormous”, which came from the need to supply her with two chairs for her meet-and-greet, one for each buttcheek (or so it was reported to me; I wasn’t there).

  • I heard Lucia Popp sing it with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1981, and so many details of that performance remain with me to this day. She was remarkable, perfect for Strauss, and her voice and intelligence went hand in hand.

    • I too was at the Los Angeles concert. As a young man at the time I thought it was the most wonderful singing, the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Since then I have trouble allowing myself to think anything has surpassed it.

  • Yes, wonderful beyond words – but might this be in the spirit of some kind of atonement effort on your part, Norman, after your vile and wholly uncalled for comments about Ein Heldenleben? Sorry; just had to ask…

  • A wonderful performance and recording that never fails to move me deeply. And Strauss’ many shifting modulations are magical.

  • I agree entirely – best rendition of Strauss’ best song ever. The first time I heard this I was in traffic & almost had a wreck – I forgot to move because I was so entranced – just holding my breath. Beautiful & poignant.

    • I was also curious about the violinist – and I have the CD but of curse, the violin solo is not listed. The recording was made in 1983 – I tried looking up who was concertmaster of th Gewandhausorchester in 83 under Kurt Masur but no luck – will be curious if anyone figures out a way to do that!

      • I think I have answered my own question — someone was commenting on a YouTube posting of her recording of Morgen and said the violinist was Gerhard Bosse (1922-2012), and Wikipedia confirms he was concertmaster 1955 to 1987. He is similarly sensitive in that song by the way.

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