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Ein Heldenlebel / Burger Als Edelmann / Don Juan
Strauss, Mahler, Pittsburgh So
Ein Heldenlebel / Burger Als Edelmann / Don Juan
Genres: Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2


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CD Reviews

Reiner's Pittsburgh Strauss: A Missing Chapter, Restored
Mark E. Farrington | Albany, NY | 10/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As everyone knows, Fritz Reiner was one of Strauss's most trusted collegues and interpreters, and actually worked with Strauss, in Dresden, from 1914 to 1921. Reiner had been in Pittsburgh for over two years when he made his first Strauss recording: the DON JUAN of January 1941. Nearly world-class playing, and the sound quality is amazingly good, coming as it does from Columbia 78s...After the final, orgiastic climax (which is none-the-less passionate for being so precisely executed), there follows a spooky pause of 7 seconds (14:51 to
14:58), capped by the dying dissolution of the Don. In spite of their excellence and sonic splendor, neither of Reiner's Chicago stereo remakes of 1954 or 1960 could quite recapture this...It's downright ontological...One of the GREAT Don Juans.

The DON QUIOXTE of November 1941 is next, with Gregor Piatigorsky's superlative solo cello. Now, war-time Columbia 78 pressings are notorious for their noisiness...And, of course, by the time this DQ was released, we were at war. The miracle is that the transferring work of Rick Torres is so good that, even with a higher "noise-floor" than with the other Strauss items in this set, you still hear all those crisply-minted textures, and need not apply "imagination" to fill in any acoustical "holes." The interpretation is equally as great as Reiner's 1959 Chicago stereo remake. There may be just a tad more spontaneity here, even if the "Windmill" episode seems, when compared to the '59, a bit "rushed" (to fit this passage onto one 78 side?). Still, Reiner makes it seem musically LOGICAL, even inevitable.

The BURGER ALS EDELMANN Suite (February 1946) is Reiner's only complete one, with great feeling for satire and superbly transferred sound - even if some of the woodwind playing, in the 4th thru 7th movements, is enough to give one pause (Reiner deleted the 5th & 6th movements in his 1956 Chicago stereo remake).

The HELDENLEBEN of November 1947 (Reiner's final recording in Pittsburgh) is as passionate as it is articulate, making the most "music" possible out of the Battle episode, and lacks nothing in pathos when we come to the Finale. Still, Reiner's Chicago stereo remake of 1954 has the edge, sonically and musically.

At some point, SONY may release pristine transfers from the original lacquer masters (as may have been done with DON QUIOXTE, before SONY axed its Masterworks Heritage project a few years back; because a Masterworks Heritage "sampler" has this DON QUIOXTE's Finale, in newly refurbished sound). But until that elusive time (and I wouldn't hold my breath), these are the best transfers we are likely to ever have of a valuable chapter in the recorded history of Richard Strauss, of Fritz Reiner's stupendous art, and of North American orchestral performance.