This was the second Diana Damrau London visit in two weeks, this time to sing Strauss Four Last Songs with the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Antonio Pappano.

But before that we got an interesting performance of Elgar Alassio. Even if the work is supposed to be Italy inspired it doesn’t really sound Italian. However it is an interesting musical piece showing Elgar mastery on orchestral color. Pappano remarked the work lightness which fit well as a prelude to Strauss music.

Looking at who has usually sung Strauss Four Last Songs (dramatic sopranos, mostly) it could came as a surprise that Diana Damrau was singing them. A coloratura that sings Zerbinetta! But in the recent years her voice has became wider and she can now sing heavier roles. And, what the hell, Kaufmann is going to sing them in a couple of months!

It’s kind of a cliché that Antonio Pappano is a voices conductor. And here it was quite true. His approach to these songs was focused on letting Damrau voice being heard perfectly and never overcome it. Gradations were admirable, adjusting to each intensity level. We lost, however, some of the magic of music: that orchestral overwhelming. Damrau singing was from less to more, with very beautiful and intelligent voice regulators that compensated the lack of extreme beautifulness of the tone and sensuality. Accent was more on expressiveness and storytelling than on hedonism. So this was a very different take on these masterworks, interesting and well done. For those who enjoyed it we will have more next year at the Barbican, singing again the Four Last Songs with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Jansons and Capriccio final scene with the London Symphony Orchestra and Noseda.

The second part was not so good. Brahms Symphony No.2. Fast tempi, light approach, with the tricky Alegretto grazioso sounding like a joke. Everything from the technical point of view was right, but it sounded a bit unbalanced and unlinked.