For a certain kind of listener
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 03/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"5 stars might seem to be devaluing the currency considering that this disc is neither new nor cheap nor particularly outstanding as a piece of recording technology, but I feel I won't be alone in giving it this rating. This record has atmosphere, presence, tingle-factor, personality -- all that sort of thing -- in a big way. The performances are all live, and both singers (Jurinac in the Strauss 4 Last Songs, Ludwig in the rest) are at their peak. Applause and a certain amount of audience noise not only don't bother me on this particular record, they are positively atmospheric, and it was inspired of someone at the BBC to combine these performances on one disc. In the Mahler orchestral songs his peculiar defiant-cum-hopeless tone is caught memorably, in his songs with piano Ludwig adapts effortlessly to their more 'Schubertian' idiom, and the Brahms lullaby, here entering my collection of 1000 discs for the first time, is my ideal of the piece. In the Strauss 4 Last Songs the classic Schwarzkopf/Szell account is a daunting effort to match, and I wouldn't have put a lot of money on a version by Sargent to match it. The performance is from the classics-for-the-masses Albert Hall promenade series, and ageing Brits like myself remember the old jokes about Sargent speeding up this or that stately classic so as not to delay the 9 o'clock news. Nothing so low-grade here! Something about the whole ambience has gone quite amazingly right this time in a way studio recordings hardly ever can, and Jurinac sings her heart out. This disc may not suit hi-fi fiends, but given the sheer inspiration of the performances I couldn't give a Nixonian about that sort of detail, and the sound is not bad anyhow."