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Asmik Grigorian sings Strauss's “Four Last Cantos”.

Asmik Grigorian sings Strauss's “Four Last Cantos”.

HThe year before Theodor Adorno wrote his seminal statement in 1949 that writing another poem after Auschwitz would be a barbaric act, one that would shape aesthetic discourse for decades, Richard Strauss composed The Four Last Songs. With its brilliant colors and its path (or escape) to fantastical beauty, it seemed to have fallen out of time – like a “Requiem for themselves” (Karl Schumann). It was not intended to be a course. They owe their title to their publishing strategy. The fact that Strauss wrote his last song – “Malvin” – later, at the end of 1948, became known only in 1984.

It was found in the safe of soprano Maria Giritza with the dedication: “To my beloved Maria, this last rose. . . “The most beautiful woman in the world.” She was one of the singers who inspired the composer's love of the soprano voice – like his wife Pauline d'Ahna, to whom he gave four songs as a wedding gift in 1894. The last four, based on poems by Joseph von Eichendorff and Hermann Hesse, were written between May and September 1948, he wrote A Changing Memory of the Shared Journey Through Life.

Since their premiere at London's Royal Albert Hall on 22 May 1950 with Strauss's chosen Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad, accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, they have been one of the great challenges of all dramatic lyric sopranos. The discography includes more than 80 recordings – now also one recording with Asmik Grigorian. After her breakthrough film Salzburg Salome (2018), this wonderful singing actress is increasingly subject to the intrusion of praise. The dangers of fame lie in its own dynamics, including a shift into complacency. Is she the same one who came up with the precious title “Laws of Isolation” for her Strauss CD – and the equation 4 + 4 = ∞? What infinity is meant by this symbol – the symbol of “solitude” (loneliness)?

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In the brief introduction, she justifies the fact that, in addition to the orchestral version, she also recorded the piano version by Max Wolf and John Gribbon while emphasizing that these versions “each require different tones.” But even Markus Hinterhauser, whom she praised as “magical in everything he does,” is unable to convey the magic of timbre and instrumental effects of the orchestral piano version: the transparency of the sound glowing in pastel tones; Contradictions. Repeated illustrations, for example when the psalms “sing” the twittering of larks. The attempt feels like an analytical commentary or like a rehearsal for a performance, especially through hyper-extension of temperature. In the piano version, “September” is about two minutes longer than the orchestral version.