“Pappano and his orchestra (what solo playing!), while never hurrying, keep the forward pace of an attentive Lied accompanist - emotional points are made without milking, matching the cool beauty of the soloist's timbre. Stemme has vocal height and weight in equal measure and (again) really uses her text.”
“…Antonio Pappano never gets to record more than bleeding chunks of the Strauss operas… Yet nothing illustrates better his genius for going straight to the theatrical heart of the matter than the opening blaze of this Salome finale. It's both beautifully textured and keenly energised, and his sense of the drama seems to have rubbed off on Nina Stemme's Salome, poised between anger and nostalgia, and Gerhard Siegel's anxious Herod.”
“To borrow a phrase from Richard Osborne, mighty tents are already pitched on these fields – for the Four Last Songs Schwarzkopf/Szell, Della Casa/Böhm, Norman/Masur; for the Salome finale Krauss/Cebotari, Welitsch/ Reiner and so on. But the conductor who has already got onto record a newly thoughtthrough Bohème, a Tosca that can hold its own with de Sabata's, and a modern Tristan with Domingo need fear no competition. All the hounds of hell are let loose by the ROH's percussion section to launch a wild, but always intricately shaped and detailed, account of young Princess Salome's sickly Liebestod.
Being already a searching, grown-up Isolde, Stemme, like her 1950s forerunners, now really manages to be a teenage Isolde too, by turns sweet, spooky and growing up.
The discs's running order is cunning and effective, and both conductor and soprano are in command of the switch to Madeleine's musicor- words dilemma. In Capriccio's Moonlight Interlude, as in the Songs, Pappano achieves richness without overweighting; his rubato lingers rather than indulges (like… but let's not compare). Stemme is a more torn and dramatic Countess than, say, Janowitz, Schwarzkopf or Della Casa; this performance harks back to Clemens Krauss and Viorica Ursuleac, emotion shaping the (fine) text, rather than vice-versa.
As if to create a valedictory survey of Strauss, the soprano voice and the orchestra, the start of 'Frühling' aptly seconds the Countess's mood.
Michael Tanner's note for the new remastering of Flagstad's creator's performance (see above) remarks how tempi in this work have got slower over the past 50 years. Pappano and his orchestra (what solo playing!), while never hurrying, keep the forward pace of an attentive Lied accompanist – emotional points are made without milking, matching the cool beauty of the soloist's timbre. Stemme has vocal height and weight in equal measure and (again) really uses her text. Finally, the record is produced and engineered with sensitivity to the layout of Strauss's instrumental and vocal textures.”