Clemens Krauss conducts RICHARD STRAUSS: Metamorphosen; Waltzes; Divertimento – Bamberg Symphony – Pristine

by | Nov 12, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Clemens Krauss conducts RICHARD STRAUSS: Metamorphosen for 23 Solo Strings; Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier; Divertimento after Couperin, Op. 86 – Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/ Clemens Krauss – Pristine Audio PASC 311, 76:21 [www.pristine] ****:
My own association with the recordings of Clemens Krauss (1893-1954) began with my acquisition of a 78 rpm set of “Three Delightful Waltzes” by Johann Strauss, Jr., the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Krauss and Erich Kleiber. The transparent lilt of Morning Papers compelled me to seek out more Krauss, which soon came by way of his inscription with Kathleen Ferrier of the Brahms Alto Rhapsody. The present collection of Richard Strauss performances derives from the archives of the Bavarian Radio, 1953-1954, and testify to an enduring collaboration between composer and conductor that involved operatic premieres and various symphonic poems.
Metamorphosen (1945) constitutes an extended threnody for strings Strauss composed in Garmisch, Bavaria for the fallen, post-World War II Germany, its complete moral collapse under a barbarian regime that denied and virtually obliterated two thousand years of cultural pride and achievement. Karajan, Furtwaengler, and Horenstein brought their own authenticity to this agonized score, rife with quotations from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. In Britain, Barbirolli championed the anguished piece; in America, Stokowski.  Krauss inscribed his reading of Metamorphosen 21 January 1953, transferred to a Philips LP (GL 5844). Tragically affecting, the string line often archives an arioso, operatic fluency that rises through the low basses and cellos and sails into the higher reaches of his violas and second violins. The small body of strings, in the manner of concerto grosso, assumes a ghostly quality, often layered in counterpoint or in stretti. A terrific urgency seizes the music late in the score, a frenetic desire to return to a Romantic vision now shredded by the Furies. The weeping, sighing figures more than suggest figures of shades we know from Michelangelo’s sculpture, or those gloomy personages cast into eternal darkness in Dante. The Beethoven Funeral March motif casts a pall across a nation or perhaps a century, consigned to Hell via its own malevolent hubris.
Strauss made a new arrangement of his splendidly sumptuous waltzes for his 1911 opera Der Rosenkavalier to remedy “those atrocious transitions” that presided in the old score. Recorded 22 January 1953 for Philips, the Krauss reading, like those by his great colleague Erich Kleiber, lavishes no end of Viennese flavors and Old World charm on a suite of unending, swaying color. The luftpausen open wide enough for a whole troupe of ballerinas, the rubati alternating between coy and delicious. Once more, Strauss wants to invoke a bygone age of Mozart and courtly grace, an era of moral and aesthetic values in concert, beautiful illusion too soon shattered by the politics of 20th Century European history.
Clemens Krauss himself debuted in Munich the second Strauss suite based on the clavecin piece of Francois Couperin, the Divertimento (1941), a fine rival to the Respighi set of Ancient Airs and Dances.  Essentially a French Overture followed by a number (sixteen) of character pieces, the music permits the Bamberg Symphony–then under the director ship of Fritz Lehmann–to strut its virtuosic colors (rec. 7 April 1954) in a flamboyant series of pageants. “Le Tic-Tic Choc,” for instance, rings in stately hues in the manner of an aerial mechanical clock. Peasant and courtly dances intermix with grand savoir-faire, often the music’s sporting a distinctive drone we associate with Scottish bagpipe effects. In “La Lutine,” the harpsichord itself contributes to the vast array of delicate colors provided by violin and flute. “Les Fauvettes” plaintively treads like a solemn sarabande in highly original colors, the strong beat of the strings reminiscent of the Albinioni Adagio. High ceremonials mark “La Trophee,” almost a Renaissance festive dance. No less spirited, “La Linotte effarouchee” prances with rollicking energy. Magical sounds inform “Les Tours de Passe-passe,” a kind of dreamy carousal. The mysticism extends into “Les Ombres errantes,” perhaps an allusion to Gluck’s operas. Colorful counterpoints light up the final two dances, “Les Brimborions” and “La Badine,” the latter a festive court dance with tambourine accompaniment to conclude a joyful homage to the powers of modern orchestration.
—Gary Lemco

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