Thursday, 11 December 2008

Soile Isokoski with glorious Richard Strauss singing

Soile Isokoski sings a selection of Richard Strauss orchestral songs including Four last songs (Vier letzte lieder). Marek Janowski conducts the Berlin Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester 2002. Further information here.

Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski (born 1957) undoubtedly has one of the most beautiful, soaring lyric-dramatic sopranos of today and is one of the finest singers in her wide range of lyric soprano repertoire, the most prominent parts being the Figaro-Countess, Donna Elvira, Faust-Marguerite, Elsa-Lohengrin and the Marschallin.

If opera was about voice alone, Soile Isokoski would certainly be a superstar. However, while Soile Isokoski´s vocal qualities place her at the top of the game, on stage she unfortunately is a rather anonymous presence, with the looks and radiance disappointingly close to a housewife, as opposed to the more glamorous presence of colleagues such as compatriot Karita Mattila.
This fact alone may probably account for Soile Isokoski´s lower profile, though she does perform on all the major stages, with upcoming performances of Donna Elvira (the MET) and Marschallin as well as Donna Elvira (Vienna State Opera) this season.

In brief, Soile Isokoski simply presents with one of the finest recordings of the Vier letzte lieder on the market. Her cool Nordic soprano simply soars through Strauss music, her floating expressivity as well as wide range of expressions combined with her soaring soprano seemingly ideal for Richard Strauss.
In terms of comparison, interpretively as well as vocally, I find Soile Isokoski closest to Elisabeth Söderstrom, though she more than holds her own, no matter what company one may place her in. Simply among the handful best versions of those songs I have heard. Equally impressive are the other Richard Strauss´ songs. A not unimportant contributory factor to the success of this album is Marek Janowski, conducting the Berlin Rundfunk Orchester, who play like they were the Berlin Philharmonics.

Overall impression (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

5

6 comments:

Gandharva said...

What terrific Strauss singing from Isokoski. Somehow until now she has escaped my radar so thank you, Mostly, for this one.

"The looks and radiance disappointingly close to a housewife" ... ouch! But unfortunately I believe you've captured it well. In a beauty contest oriented generation under the unforgiving spotlight of home video, one wonders how the likes of Nilsson, Sutherland and others would have fared. Lisa Gasteen can still get work with the major opera houses, but she operates in a much less crowed field. As long as the Netrebkos of the world cannot sing Brünnhilda there will be an opportunity for others not so visually engaging. After all, Meier can't appear everywhere. I hope to see Deborah Voight sing Isolde in Chicago next month. She is another who has felt the sting of critical disapproval for reasons not wholly related to her singing.

marcillac said...

Isakoski is indeed a very good singer. I've actually stumbled on her a number of times over the last 7 or 8. She may be somewhat lacking in the glamor quotient and this could well be the reason she had a hard time getting her career going. It is all the more surprising that she has managed to continue singing big roles in big houses into her 50s.

Anonymous said...

I heard her at the Met as the Countess in Mozart's Figaro a few seasons ago. Glorious singing, sweet voice and very humble interpretation.

Anonymous said...

But you must remember that Soile Isokoski is a deeply religious person - she doesn't like publicity or diva cult. Being a humble person in private (and public) life certainly affects her stage appearance. Yes, she has a wonderful voice! I do adore it!

And I like her interpretation of Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier) and Rachel (La Juive). She's economic with gestures, but I like her minimalistic style. I don't like Karita Mattila's overacting at all - she seems to out of control on stage. Sometimes less is more!

PS. I can recommend Isokoski's Luonnotar -cd (2007) as well as her latest release Scenes d'amore, both discs are a pleasure to my ears!

lilloboss said...

The Italian Songbook cd that she sings with Bo Skovhus sounds great too, and maybe if not actually better then it's preferable in certain moods to the benchmark one from DFD, ES and GM.

Guido said...

If she's so religious, why is she singing Strauss at all?! More important than looks are stage presence and acting ability which is possibly where she flounders.

I agree though - a ravishing voice, for me only surpassed by Fleming amongst still performing full lyrics, and this is a superb disc of Strauss.

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