Richard Strauss' Greatest Works
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 12/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For a good deal of his eighty-five years of life, the German composer Richard Strauss was the master of a form that originated with Franz Liszt in the early 19th century--the symphonic tone poem. From his first tone poem "Aus Italien" in 1886, to the final one "Metamorphosen" in 1945, Strauss perfected the form, and did so frequently with large-scale orchestral forces that would have envied even Mahler. And in this 6-CD set from London/Decca, Strauss' skill with the form is on display, thanks to five great conductors and four great orchestras:
CD 1: DON QUIXOTE (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ZUBIN MEHTA; with Kurt Reher [celo] and Jan Hlinka [viola]); DON JUAN (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/LORIN MAAZEL); MACBETH (Detroit Symphony Orchestra/ANTAL DORATI)
CD-2: AUS ITALIEN (Cleveland Orchestra/VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY); ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ZUBIN MEHTA)
CD-3: SINFONIA DOMESTICA (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ZUBIN MEHTA); DEATH AND TRANSFIGURATION (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/CHRISTOPH VON DOHNANYI); DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS FROM "SALOME" (Cleveland Orchestra/VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY)
CD-4: AN ALPINE SYMPHONY (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ZUBIN MEHTA); METAMORPHOSEN (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/CHRISTOPH VON DOHNANYI)
CD-5: EIN HELDENLEBEN (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/ZUBIN MEHTA; with David Frisina [violin]); CONCERT SUITE FROM "DER ROSENKAVALIER" (Detroit Symphony Orchestra/ANTAL DORATI)
CD-6: LE BOUREGEOIS GENTILHOMME (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/LORIN MAAZEL; with FRIEDRICH GULDA [piano], WILLI BOSKOVSKY [violin], and EMANUEL BRABEC [cello]); FANTASIE FROM "DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN" (Detroit Symphony Orchestra/ANTAL DORATI); TILL EULENSPIEGEL'S MERRY PRANKS (Cleveland Orchestra/CHRISTOPH VON DOHNANYI)
These recordings were made over a span of close to thirty years, from 1964 to 1991, and give us not only the most well known pieces like "Don Juan" and "Also Sprach Zarathustra", but also lesser-known works such as "Macbeth" and "Aus Italien," again all performed by great orchestras and conductors. Of no small significance is the performance of "Macbeth" by the Detroit Symphony under Antal Dorati, which accentuates the terrifying power of this relatively obscure piece, as well as the skills of both conductor and orchestra. And there is also Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's memorable performance of "Zarathustra", recorded in the same year (1968) that piece became cinematically immortalized by director Stanley Kubrick in his classic science fiction film 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Perhaps the only thing people might complain about is the absence of the San Francisco Symphony and Herbert Blomstedt on this compilation, and they'd have a strong case; for not only did this orchestra/conductor tandem record for London/Decca, they also did a significant amount of Strauss. Apart from that minor misstep, however, this is a superlative compilation of a great and sometimes troubled German composer's contributions to classical music, well worth picking up."
Outstanding Strauss set
Hegelian | Concord, MA USA | 08/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Strauss fans who have been subsisting on classic recordings by Karajan, Kempe and Reiner will find this collection a refreshing alternative. The Mehta recordings are some of the best he ever made, but there is also an excellent Aus Italien from Ashkenazy, a red-blooded Death and Transfiguration from Dohnanyi, and a suite put together by Dorati from Der Rosenkavalier that puts Kempe to shame. Altogether, this is a wonderful set and a great bargain."