Clemens Krauss conducts RICHARD STRAUSS = Till Eulenspiegel, Op. 28; Tod und Verklaerung, Op. 24; Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite, Op. 60 – Orch. del Teatro alla Scala (Op. 28)/ London Philharmonic Orch. (Op. 24)/ Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Clemens Krauss – Dutton CDBP 9816, 70:45 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Clemens Krauss (1893-1954) maintained a close relationship with composer Richard Strauss, his having assumed the leadership at the National Theatre Munich after Hans Knappertsbusch resigned. In Berlin, Krauss resumed preparations for Arabella in 1935 after Fritz Busch had abdicated his post at the Berlin State Opera in anti-Nazi protest. Though Krauss (and Strauss) made an uneasy peace with National Socialism, neither seems to have been politically savvy; and for his possible service to Jews seeking to escape persecution during the war, Krauss was able to pick up his career in 1947. Though nearly always associated with either the Vienna Philharmonic or Bayreuth, this collection from Dutton provides us some alternative ensemble in the Krauss legacy.
Verve and orchestral virtuosity reign in Krauss readings of Richard Strauss, and the Till Eulenspiegel from Milan (23 July 1947) proves the rule. Lighthearted and brilliantly accented, the various antics and misadventures of the picaresque Till virtually sing and frolic in quicksilver relief, the La Scala woodwinds and brass quite energized. The screech of Till’s hanging and the subsequent “moral” at the coda graphically illustrate the Krauss penchant for making orchestral colors.
Having been invited to Britain in late 1947, Krauss inscribed Death and Transfiguration with the London Philharmonic (19-20 December 1947). Oboe, violin, and harp set the tone, with palpitating strings, of the dying protagonist of Ritter’s poem. The visceral response Krauss elicits from the LPO quite justifies the ensemble’s splendid repute as a bravura ensemble, especially when its colors could be exploited by the likes of Beinum, Boult, and Krauss. The throes of clinging life become intensely feverish and convulsive, as required. With the entry of the flute over muted strings, Krauss indulges in the arch-like reminiscence of the piece, its dance-like nostalgia for springtime and youth. The periods become broadly expressive, so much more to prolong life in its archetypal struggle against dissolution. When release does come, the soul has not gone gently into that good night, but has fought its last heroic battle, destroyed but not defeated. The Transfiguration, however, appears thoroughly natural and unforced, a truly lyrical transition to that continent from whose bourn no traveler returns.
Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal collaborated in a 1917 revival of Moliere’s play of 1670 with commedia dell’arte troupe and incidental music. The nine-movement Suite, prepared by Strauss in 1920, means to capture the spirit of the abridged play, whose 1912 production had proven a failure. Dutton restores the Krauss inscription from 28-31 October 1929, whose magical luster remains intact. Musically, the fascination lies in the composer’s effective invocation of Baroque sounds both large and intimate, even going so far as to rescore music by Lully in three of the sections. The lithe sophistication of the score and its silken realization by Krauss remind us of Stravinsky’s epithet for Strauss, calling him the “great connoisseur.”
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