Ein Heldenleben and the Four Last Songs make a slightly unusual coupling, though these works are, in fact, contrasting portraits of Strauss's own marriage. Heldenleben mockingly pits thoughts of domesticity against the trials and tribulations of stardom, while the Songs contentedly look back on a lifetime's companionship, even as death begins to make its presence felt. They're nicely contrasted here by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who comes across as a striking Straussian. The multiple ironies of Heldenleben are superbly caught, though the emotional kernel of his interpretation lies in a sexy account of the central love scene and his touchingly beautiful treatment of the finale. The orchestral sound is lean and sinewy; it's not for those who like their Strauss uber-opulent. That this is deliberate, however, is born out by the warmer orchestral colours that Nézet-Séguin adopts for his grave yet urgent performance of the Four Last Songs. Dorothea Röschmann is his soprano soloist. Her voice lacks a little of its former lustre, though you can hear every word – and hear it given meaning.
Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Four Last Songs – review
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss