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Label:
  Warner Music (Japan) - http://wmg.jp/
Serial:
  WPGS-50113
Title:
  Strauss: Four Last Songs - Schwarzkopf, Szell
Description:
  Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Lieder

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
George Szell (conductor)
Track listing:
 
Genre:
  Classical - Vocal
Content:
  Stereo
Media:
  Hybrid
Recording type:
 
Recording info:
 
Note:
  Formerly TOGE-12044

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Related titles: 2


 
Reviews: 2

Review by Jonalogic December 17, 2011 (13 of 17 found this review helpful)
Performance:   
I'm not going to insult folk by commenting on the music. Nearly 50 years after first hearing this performance of the Four Last Songs, it still brings tears to my eyes. So, that's 8 and a half stars for the music then... But I am not going to rate the sound at all. You'll just have to read this review to see why.

I have now listened to this and three others from the first batch of EMI Japan classical re-releases from their epic back catalogue.* Excepting the Klemperer - which I don't have in vinyl -I have compared with both equivalent RBCDs and both early and late vinyl pressings on my Goldmund/Clearaudio analogue front end.

The results seem to be consistent to my ears, and also to the other early reviews I am seeing in the Forum.

In a nutshell:

1) These seem to be comfortably better sounding than RBCD equivalents, where I can find them. But that's not really too hard, is it?

2) Comparisons with original vinyl are not so flattering, however. Basically, these SACDs are drier, less transparent and have a muted, coarsened and somewhat thickened rather than liquid top end. There is noticeably less 'air' and the sense of spooky there-ness achieved by the best EMI recordings (such as later Bishop/Parkers) is absent.

On this particular recording, the give-away is Schwarzkopf's wondrous voice. Heard in isolation here on the SACD, it sounds OK. Switch to an early vinyl pressing, however, and it becomes liquid, sensual and altogether more hair-raising (literally, the stuff on the back of my head moves...).

From the evidence of the first four of these recordings I have heard, I find the results somewhat disappointing. Comparisons with analogue re-releases from Sound Mirror (RCA Living Stereo), Sony (Columbia) and Mobile Fidelity (Vox) are instructive here. All these companies strove outright to extract the maximum possible information from the best analogue masters they could source, preferably straight to DSD. They have all achieved excellent results. By contrast, EMI engineers seem to have adopted a different approach. From what I can decipher from the (Japanese only) notes and images, they have transfered from analog to 24/96 PCM and sought in the digital domain to 'improve' the original through EQ, Cedar noise reduction and other single-end post-processing techniques.

IMHO, they have thereby succeeded in throwing out much of the baby with the bathwater. That's disappointing.

In conclusion, this and the other SACDs I have heard in the series thus far are recommendable if you need to have these great recordings and performances on SACD. But there are better uses for your precious time and money if you already have the vinyl and a decent analogue front end on which to play it.

Sorry.

* This Szell/Strauss, the Barbirolli/Du Pre/ Elgar TOGE12020, the Klemperer/Mendelssohn Midsummer Night TOGE 12012 and Previn/ Tchaikovsky/Nutcracker TOGE12013.

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Review by mwgfrg December 19, 2011 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I don't really disagree with the judgments in the prior review, and certainly as to performance agree wholeheartedly. There is no better performance (except, vocally anyway, Schwarzkopf's earlier mono performance). And I also agree that the HMV and German Electrola LPs are superior: cleaner, warmer, just plain better. But this SACD is light years better than any RBCD transfer I have heard, and frankly, I don't think the difference between the SACDs and the LPs warrants a frantic search for high priced, expensive, rare, good condition 40 + year old LPs unless you are a fanatic. (I am, and the prior reviewer may be also, but presumably some of you are saner.) This is a very great performance, in sound far superior to many modern digitally recorded SACDs, and passing it up on any grounds is a huge mistake. The same is true of many of these Japanese EMI SACDs: we should be grateful to have them, and that they are as good as they are, not pass them up because they could be better.

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Works: 11  

Richard Strauss - 3 Gesänge älterer deutscher Dichter, TrV 196 Op. 43
Richard Strauss - 4 Letzte Lieder (Last Songs), TrV 296
Richard Strauss - 4 Lieder, TrV 170 Op. 27
Richard Strauss - 4 Lieder, TrV 186 Op. 36
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, TrV 195 Op. 41
Richard Strauss - 5 Lieder, TrV 202 Op. 48
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder, TrV 187 Op. 37
Richard Strauss - 6 Lieder, TrV 220 Op. 56
Richard Strauss - 8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", TrV 141 Op. 10
Richard Strauss - 8 Lieder, TrV 204 Op. 49
Richard Strauss - Das Bächlein, TrV 264 Op. 88 No. 1