Four last songs


by Maria-Isabela Nica
March 20, 2023
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What’s on the plate?

We have chosen for you another good album that stands out for its interpretative depth, but also for its importance as reference material on the musical market – Rachel Willis-Sørensen’s Strauss: Four Last Songs under the label Sony Music Entertainment launched in October 2022. The album is a stunning recording that captures the essence of the german composer’s music – Richard Strauss. The lush orchestral accompaniment provided by the Gewandhausorchester under the baton of Andris Nelsons provides a perfect backdrop for Willis-Sørensen’s soaring vocal lines. I find the selection of works a successful mix concerning the period when the pieces were composed and in terms of atmosphere and message. The first half is Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder – Four Last Songs and the second is the closing scene of his final opera, Capriccio. For the second part, the soprano is joined by German bass Sebastian Pilgrim. Drawing on her rich vocal power and emotional range, Willis-Sørensen brings these masterworks to life in a way that is both hauntingly beautiful and profoundly moving. Exactly how this music should be played! 

Let’s have a closer look!

Vier letzte Lieder – Four Last Songs Written in 1948, Vier letzte Lieder, were the composer’s “swan song”, the last works he wrote before his death. He created the songs as a meditation on his mortality, and on the idea of death being a transition from life to another world. In the interpretation of Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Gewandhausorchester conducted by Andris Nelsons, I profoundly felt the melancholy and uplifting, reflecting the conflicting emotions that Strauss wanted to put in his music. The opening song, Frühling, sets the tone for the rest of the album with its lyrical melody and gentle orchestral accompaniment and the soprano Willis-Sørensen’s performance brings the text to life with passion. With the following songs, September, Beim Schlafengehen and Im Abendrot we can fully enjoy how Willis-Sørensen’s voice glides effortlessly over the shifting harmonic landscapes and Andris Nelson’s vision of the orchestral accompaniment, together bringing these timeless masterpieces to life. Overall, are mesmerizing recordings that find the balance of delicate phrasing and emotional intensity.

Selections of Capriccio

Capriccio is one of the most enduring and beloved works of the German composer. Also written at the end of his life, the piece is an example of Strauss’ mastery of the lyrical idiom. I truly enjoyed the selections from the final movement, Presto, a spirited and energetic conclusion to the piece, with a fast and exciting tempo. Listening to the album I can clearly say that these recordings are a powerful example of musical storytelling. With Willis-Sørensen and Sebastian Pilgrim in the spotlight, the music immediately captures the listener’s attention and encourages us to fantasize. The piece is led by an impressive full orchestra, with a strong emphasis on the strings, parts filled with emotion, where Strauss utilizes a variety of techniques to convey it. From the pulsing rhythms to the sweeping melodic lines, Strauss paints an entrancing picture in which our performers shine! The final movement of Richard Strauss’ Capriccio is a powerful and moving experience. If the first part of the album makes us contemplate more on the meanings of life, then the second one brings its other side, the one full of unknown’s excitement.

Final thoughts

The album highlights recordings of exceptional depth, distinguished by interpretation and power of expression. It is a testament to Strauss’ genius as well as a timeless example of the importance of blending interpretation and composition to achieve results of enduring beauty. This album’s complex subtleties and emotion are sure to move and inspire listeners. Highly recommended.


Sir Colin Davis
Colin Rex Davis was born on September 25th, 1927, in Weybridge, Surrey, England, and was known for his exceptional interpretations of a wide range of classical and contemporary repertoire. His early exposure to music was through the clarinet, which he started playing at a young age. His interest in conducting developed during his time at...
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Alice Lechner
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We continue our Theaters around the World column, and in this issue, we arrive in Sicily, more precisely in Palermo. It is known that Teatro Massimo di Palermo was, for a long time, the third largest opera house in Europe, after Palais Garnier and Wiener Staatsoper. The construction of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily,...
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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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