Strauss: Four Last Songs; Prelude to Guntram; Orchestral songs

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1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: Classic FM
WORKS: Four Last Songs; Prelude to Guntram; Orchestral songs
PERFORMER: Carole Farley (soprano); Czech State PO, Brno/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 70022
This is a disc to avoid. A ‘Mood Guide’ rating on the cover gives the music high marks for its ‘Romantic’, ‘Soothing’ and ‘Uplifting’ qualities, but the purchaser seduced by this recommendation will fail to comprehend what is being sung because of the absence of texts and translations. The track listing fails to mention that the last two tracks, orchestral pieces with German titles, are interludes from the opera Intermezzo. Four of the 14 songs included here were never orchestrated by Strauss, but responsibility for these arrangements – and for several modifications of Strauss’s own orchestrations – goes uncredited.

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More serious than these gaffes of presentation is Carole Farley’s utter unsuitability for providing the beguiling intimacy and soaring ecstasy of this music. Farley’s breathy tone becomes squally when the going gets high or loud, and her attempts at expression coarsen the music unbearably – her renderings of ‘Zueignung’ and ‘Ich trage meine Minne’ make me feel as if I were cornered at an elegant social function by a boor with halitosis. Serebrier’s fresh, brisk pacing makes the syncopations of ‘Befreit’nearly jazzy and turns ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ into a relentlessly rhythmical, impossibly prosaic vocalise. In short, this is a recording I ardently hope never to have to hear again. David Breckbill