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):