SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

RICHARD STRAUSS: Der Burder als Edelmann (Le bourgeois gentilhomme Suite); Wiegenlied; Zueignung; Four Last Songs; Morgen! – Lisa Larsson, sop./ Musikkollegium Winterthur/ Douglas Boyd – MDG

Nice readings that sound great yet fail to make the top grade.

Published on August 2, 2012

RICHARD STRAUSS: Der Burder als Edelmann, Op. 60 (Le bourgeois gentilhomme Suite); Wiegenlied, Op. 41, No. 1; Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1; Four Last Songs; Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4 – Lisa Larsson, sop./ Musikkollegium Winterthur/ Douglas Boyd – MDG multichannel SACD (2+2+2) 901 1738-6, 66:41 [Distr. by E1] ***1/2:

I gave the title to this disc as written, though most classical fans will know it as Le bourgeois gentilhomme, Strauss’s play plus opera that never quite worked.  It eventually, after a lot of pain, ended up as an instrumental suite, and that is the form which most people know it. The Winterthur orchestra is becoming quite adept via recordings at transmitting excellent performances of romantic and post-romantic music, and this gentilhomme is no exception, the strings exhibiting a delicacy and softness that is most appropriate in Strauss’s most baroque of scores, and yet the orchestra never lacks the requisite power when needed.

Soprano Lisa Larsson is the real star of this disc, being featured in three orchestral songs plus the ubiquitous Four Last Songs. The latter have been recorded by the best of the best umpteen times, so Larsson throws her hat into a particularly competitive ring. Her performances, with a voice that is versatile and nicely placed in the required registration, might seem perfect for this music, as it is in other repertory and other recordings on MDG. But she’s not going to make me forget about Gundula Janowitz and Karajan, or Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Szell, or Renee Fleming and Eschenbach, to name my three favorites. Plus I miss some sweep in the orchestra, something the Winterthur orchestra is capable of but which conductor Boyd chooses to rein in here. But I must still give credit to Larsson, who gives a creditable performance and has the advantage of wonderful surround sound as well. Not a first choice for anything here, but worthy performances all that sound very good.

—Steven Ritter

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