Today's Classical Music Video

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soprano Aga Mikolaj Sings Strauss' Four Last Songs

Last Thursday, September 8 marked the 62nd anniversary of the death of the great Richard Strauss.  Born on June 11, 1864, Strauss was above all a composer for the human voice, particularly the soprano.  Throughout his long life, Strauss composed some of his most inspired music for the high female voice, perhaps none greater than his last compositions, the Vier letzte Lieder or Four Last Songs. It places daunting demands on the singer, requiring beauty of tone, supreme technical control - particularly long breath, and heart-felt expression.  There have been some spectacularly wonderful versions on disc - Janowitz with von Karajan and the Berlin Phil, Lucia Popp with Tennstedt, Soile Isokosi with Marek Janowski, and in a contrarian fashion Jessye Norman in a very slow and luxuriant reading for Kurt Masur. Many VLL connoisseurs love the Schwarzkopf recording with Szell, or better yet, the early one in mono sound with Ackermann. To this list I would like to add a new recording with young Polish soprano Aga Mikolaj and conductor Karl Sollak on the German CPO label.  Hers is an exceptionally beautiful and expressive voice under superb technical control. Her singing is just indescribably beautiful, equal to some of the greatest versions on record. She is a member of the Bavarian State Opera ensemble, and I heard her there as Naiade in Ariadne auf Naxos. This small role doesn't really show of her voice  Here are four video clips of her VLL in a live performance in Hungary. The video was taped from the audience and the orchestra was not ideal, but even under these conditions, you can tell she is a wonderful singer
 
- Joseph K. So

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