Clemens Krauss conducts RICHARD STRAUSS: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30; Don Juan, Op. 20; Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28 – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Clemens Krauss – Pristine Audio PASC 309, 63:41 [avail. in various formats from www.pristine classical.com] ****:
A second disc devoted to conductor Clemens Krauss (1893-1954) and his advocacy of the scores of Richard Strauss on the Decca label here captures the Krauss magic in the realm of the symphonic poem, a genre Strauss took on at the urging of Alexander Ritter, to abandon conservative structures and utilize the tone-poem to express his reactions to works literary and philosophical. The potent reading of the 1896 Also Sprach Zarathustra (12-13 June 1950) with the Vienna Philharmonic predates the Karl Bohm performance by some thirteen years, although that later rendition would gain supremacy via Stanley Kubrick’s use of it for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The splendid violin solo for Das Tanzlied would be Willi Boskovsky, and he and Krauss perform in perfect sympathy. The dance expresses Nietzsche’s consummate acceptance of The Eternal Return, the Pythagorean notion that all matter and energy must re-configure in its present form at some infinite point in time, given a finite universe. So the Nietzschean formula for happiness becomes amor fati: love one’s [inevitable] fate. “That one wants to have nothing different, not forward not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it, since all idealism is mendacity before the necessary, but to love it.” The final “Song of the Night Wanderer” has flutes, piccolos, and violins play B Major over C in the low strings. This tension extends itself, as B Major comes to symbolize an evolving Humanity against the C Major of cosmic Necessity. The Sphinx’s riddle remains unsolved in the bitonal conclusion, a paradox that Nietzsche may well have ignored.
The performance of the 1888 Don Juan (16 June 1950) erupts with trumpets, strings, winds, cymbals, and tympani in terrific animation, the triangle’s adding to the distinct coloration of the Don (via the poet Lenau) and his erotic and picaresque sensibility. The luster of the VPO strings quite irradiates the secondary theme, a wonderful melody supported by the harp. The huge swathes of color ring exuberantly, a testament to the young composer’s overt virtuosity in orchestral technique. The English and French horns collaborate to produce a sensuously lithe melodic line, while luxurious harmonies pipe above and below. The bevy of sixteenth notes leave the VPO players undaunted; in fact, they seem to gain confidence and certitude as the reading proceeds, B Major and E Major in constant collision. In Lenau’s version, the Don dies in a duel that he might well have won, but the death-wish triumphs. Krauss whips through the long development section to the chilling A Minor chord, followed by a descending scale in the violins with two trumpets evoking Judgment Day in F. The violas spasm rather than sing, the life force simply having been drained away.
From the same 16 June session we have the ever-popular 1894 Till Eulenspiegel, built to show off the Strauss penchant for the French horn, obtained legitimately through the father, Franz Strauss. The title of the symphonic poem, “Till Owl-Glass,” holds a distorting mirror to Man’s vanity and erotic energies. The various adventures prove scatological and bawdy, the anti-authoritarian stuff of impolite company and Ken Kesey.
“But in spite of all this,” offers Debussy, “there is genius in certain aspects of the work, notably in the amazing sureness of the orchestration and in that frenzied movement which sweeps us on from beginning to end, making us live through all the hero’s adventures.” The rhythms and colors of the VPO, eminently plastic and supercharged, engage us at every turn, and the performance can stand along those of Reiner, Toscanini, and Furtwaengler without embarrassment.
Some “first time” Dance Music releases by Sevitzky and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra