Exhilarating power, rapture
Oswald W. Johnson | Wheaton, IL or Arlington, VA | 01/31/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perfect singing, appropriately powerful vocal writing from an intensely powerful composer.
This cd is the first Accentus disc I've bought, and it is simply fantastic. Loving Strauss in general, and having a little foreknowledge of his vocal output, I was not surprised by the thick texture and intensely Straussian harmonic language in these pieces for mixed a cappella choir (except that the Traumlicht piece is for just male voices).
Strauss' characteristic usage of constant harmonic shifts, long climaxes with sudden drops and retakes, and interweaving melodic lines are given special brilliance when put to the human voice. This medium works beautifully, and the perfection of tone, balance, and dynamics in Accentus and the Latvian Radio Choir under Laurence Equilbey don't hinder in any way:)
Most heartily recommended."
Richard Strauss sans orchestra
Craig M. Zeichner | Brooklyn, NY | 03/07/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"How much of Richard Strauss's choral music do you know? I thought so. You can get a taste of this rarely-heard facet of the composer's craft in this recording by the always-dependable choral ensemble Accentus. The recording presents a sampling of works, from the early Zwei Gesänge, Op. 34 (1897) to the male voice choir Traumlicht, Op. 123 No. 2 (1935), written when Strauss was struggling with the difficulty of his having his opera Die schweigsame Frau staged - the "jewishness" of its librettist Stephan Zweig was the issue.
The centerpiece of the program is the Deutsche Motette, a lush 1913 work for SATB soloists and sixteen-part choir. Set to a text by Friederich Rückert, the Deutsche Motette is hair-raisingly difficult and requires an overall compass of four complete octaves. For nearly 20 minutes the choirs - Accentus is augmented by the Lativian Radio Choir - sing an unaccompanied line that has its fill of harmonic wiggling and some flat-out gorgeous melodies. It certainly reminds me of the symphonic Strauss.
Accentus acquits itself quite well. Tonal quality and blend are near-ideal and the fact that they stay in pitch in the Deutsche Motette is quite a feat in itself. These are well-sung performances but there are some issues that keep this from being a revelation. I find an emotional coolness in these performances that drops things below the usual standard I've expected from Accentus. At times the choir actually sounds under-nourished and makes me wish for more body and a lot more volume. There are also some pretty obvious extraneous noises - do I actually hear somebody walking with creaking shoes? If you can get over these concerns you will enjoy this recording of some of Strauss's most fetching music.