Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Op 40; Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs)

Reviewed on Mon 09 Feb, 2015

The opening of Ein Heldenleben is a little spongy, the first section less than fearlessly daring if blossoming detail, Daniel Barenboim (as recently as August last year, well done DG for not sitting on this release) nurturing our Hero – Richard Strauss himself – rather than swaggering him. It’s a seasoned and glowing outing in terms of playing and sound, at its best in the tender and reminiscing parts, Wolfram Brandl’s violin solos a seductive portrait of the capricious Pauline de Ahna (the future Frau Strauss). Otherwise, Barenboim’s sculpturing tends to blunt edges, although his sensitivity to expressive nuance is notable, and the ripe horn solo towards the close is striking. In Four Last Songs Anna Netrebko is darkly Slavonic for her first lines, then soaring gloriously if a little dominating of the orchestra. It’s a flowing account overall, quite touching, especially a poignant ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, if not always the most soulful.
–Colin Anderson