The Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu, who lived only from 1870 to 1894, studied with Franck and d'lndy, and before his untimely death from typhoid made enough of an impression for d'lndy to complete the Piano Quartet which he left unfinished. This intensely emotional young man, who was ''knocked out'' by his discovery of Beethoven and fainted on hearing Tristan, declared his aim to be that of ''putting all my soul into my music'' and seems to have achieved it. Thus, his Molto adagio of 1886–7 was inspired by Christ's words in the Garden of Gethsemane, ''My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death''.
Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) was a Belgian composer who died tragically young. He dedicated himself to composition from an early age, and was largely self-taught before César Franck took him under his wing. Unfortunately Franck died only a year later, after which Lekeu came under the tutelage of D'Indy, was befriended by Chausson, and received important commissions from the great Belgian violinisy Ysayë. The sublime Adagio for Strings on this disc, which Lekeu uncharacteristically never menions in his voluminous correspondence, was doubtless written in Franck's memory. The disc also contains Lekeu's major orchestral work, the Fantasy on two Angevin folk songs, and the touching symphonic study Ophélie, here given in its shorter (and to my mind better) version.
The discography of Strauss’s last opera is not exactly crowded, but the two existing accounts provide formidable competition for any newcomer. First there was Sawallisch, conducting the Philharmonia for EMI in 1957 (unfortunately in mono) and a cast led by Schwarzkopf, Ludwig and Fischer-Dieskau. Then, in 1971, came that other supreme Straussian, Karl Böhm, with Janowitz, Troyanos and (again) Fischer-Dieskau, recorded in Munich for DG. The new Decca set brings together many of today’s leading exponents of Strauss’s roles, dominated, for me, by the unsurpassed Clairon of Brigitte Fassbaender, now alas, never to be heard on stage again following her retirement. Heilmann and Bär make an ardent pair of rival suitors, Hagegård an admirable Count and Halem a sonorous, characterful La Roche. (There is a delightful link with the past history of the opera in the person of Hans Hotter: he sang Olivier in the 1942 premiere, La Roche in the 1957 Sawallisch set, and here, at 84 when recorded in December 1993, a one-line cameo as a servant.) For many, though, the set’s desirability will rest on Te Kanawa’s Countess.