What is your favorite Strauss The Last Four Songs?

The performances I enjoy are:

1. Karajan with Gundula Janowitz on DG
2. Tennstedt with Lucia Popp on EMI

Are there any other performances you recommend?

Thanks in advance and happy listening.

My favorite is Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with the Berlin Radio Symphony, conducted by George Szell, on the EMI Great Recordings Of The Century label. It is most loved my German speakers; because the words came long before the music. Ms. Schwarzkopf puts the correct emphasis and meaning to those words; and sings wonderfully as well. There is an earlier recording she made with Ackerman that some like even better, but I think that it is available only as a used LP.

A friend of mine just loves this piece of music. When it was performed a few years ago by the Baltimore Symphony, he went to every performance. He is the one who clued me into this recording. He wore out his LP of it, he played it so much.

Renee Fleming has gotten good reviews singing it in concert and on CD, which is noteable since Ms. Schwarzkopf is her teacher. Fleming has recorded it with Christoph Eschenbach, which is a great modern recording choice for audiophile sound quality.

I do love this piece deeply. One night I can't stop myself playing it continuously (4 times).


Please kindly provide more details in term of the difference(s) between Schwarzkopf under the directions of Szell and Ackerman which is available on CD format, EMI CDH 61001. I am always wondering which recording I should collect.

The other post-war composition moves me profoundly is Metamorphosen. I can still remember so vivid the performance by Dresden Staatskapelle under the direction of Sinopoli at Carnegie Hall a few years ago. Subtle and refine. It is all history now. Pity!

Happy Listening!

Hi Otto!
I suggest you get both Schwarzkopf recordings.
To quote John B. Steane, the eminent Gramophone critic, as he remarks in his eloquent notes "... the two performances are complementary, one does not have to choose between the freshness of the (Ackerman) one and the experience of the other (Szell)."

I have multiple recordings of many pieces of music. I enjoy them all for various reasons. I guess I should pick up the Ackerman on CD also.

as a supplement to schwarzkopf w/szell, i find myself going to felicity lott. i love her voice - its a little lightweight compared to others but in this music i find that i actually prefer that.
Sugarbrie / Newbee,

Please kindly advise your favorite performance(s) of Metamorphosen.


otto, while i like von karajan's lp i'm not too fond of the recording by dg. i find myself listening to jarvi on chandos as it contains a good version of tod und verklarung and drei hymnen as well as metamorphosen (it also has lott). and, ormandy doing death and transfiguration and metamorphosen with the philadelphia on rca is worthwile as well. i'm sure there are others but this is such intense music that i seldom listen to it and have not really explored other performance possibilities.

Truly intense music indeed. There is another recording by Klemperer. That album released by EMI contains Siegfried Idyll (very rare original orchestration version), Mahler Symphony No. 9 and Metamorphosen. As most of Klemperper's interpretations, it is "heavy".

Happy Listening!

I have opted for E. Schwarzkopf/Szell over the Ackerman. Even though Ackerman's earlier version offers a younger Schwarzkopf, I like the maturity of her voice in the Szell version & the classicism of the latter's conductiong.
For the Metamorphosen, I presently favour a Janowitz /Academy of London/R Stamp version on Virgin (which also has the Four Last Songs) -- but I'm sure I need to research this piece better...

Janowitz and Popp are my two favorites, but Barbara Bonney, with only piano accompaniment, is also delightful.

I've enjoyed Norman with Masur for a long time.

Also Schwarzkopf-Szell.

Another winner is the more recent Isokoski-Janowski recording suggested by Dave.



A clear winner for me is Gundula Janowitz with Von Karajan conducting.

One that I am also attached to is Jessye Norman with Kurt Massur conducting.

There are also a good number of others that I like in certain songs in the set but not all four. 

My satisfaction for the two named are because I can find nothing to criticize in them.