“Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948, premiered posthumously in 1950) benefitted from a singer-friendly conductor and the inestimable presence of Diana Damrau. She was wonderful, confiding and communicative from the off – ‘Frühling’ – never forcing the highest-lying passages, and painting the words with meaning, not least in ‘September’, aided by pastel-shaded orchestral colouring of equal importance, its envoi now giving David Pyatt an opportunity to display his prowess on the horn, floated raptly.
Arguably the greatest setting is ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, this ‘Going to Sleep’ opening darkly from (left-positioned) double basses and embracing a violin solo from Pieter Schoeman that was from the heavenly side of the universe to which Damrau responded with spellbinding musicianship. As for the valedictory ‘Im Abendrot’ (words by Joseph von Eichendorff, the preceding three poems are courtesy of Hermann Hesse), this ‘Sunset’ was a dignified farewell, with birdsong flutes, Damrau continuing to engage and move the listener without any attention-seeking, her intrinsic approach dovetailing with LPO luminaries, the music fading from aural view like clouds over the distant horizon.”
“The best was Diana Damrau in Strauss’ Four Last Songs. She has described the songs in a recent radio interview as “moments of reflection, of feeling, in which [the singer] must act almost like a medium”. That reflectiveness was indeed there, but it is only part of the story. Her voice now has a lightness, purity, poise, control, tonal security and focus”
“Diana Damrau’s voice… brings consummate mastery of line and diction, and floats the upper notes effortlessly.”