RICHARD STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra; Don Juan; Till Eugenspiegels lustige Streiche; Metamorphosen; Tod und Verklarung – Staatskapelle Dresden Orchestra/ Herbert Blomstedt, conductor – Dal Segno (2 CDs)

by | Jan 20, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

RICHARD STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra; Don Juan; Till Eugenspiegels lustige Streiche; Metamorphosen; Tod und Verklarung (Death and Transfiguration) – Staatskapelle Dresden Orchestra/ Herbert Blomstedt, conductor – Dal Segno PRCD050 (2 CDs), 120:17 [Distr. by Qualiton] *****:

This is a hard combination to beat; Blomstedt is a known Straussian with many years of experience and recordings to his credit, and the Dresden Orchestra has this music in their blood, perhaps more than any other orchestra anywhere. The punchy brass, powerful and luxurious strings, and very crisp wind playing make up what may be the most ideal Richard Strauss sound in the entire world.

These are 1987 and 1989 digital recordings for the Denon label, a company that was noted early on for the audiophile quality of their CDs, turning in some spectacular readings of Strauss, Wagner, Mahler, and Bruckner. These may be considered part of that legacy and aside from a noticeable constriction in width (especially for those used to surround sound now) and for a rather low level of recording volume, this package may prove as serviceable as any on the market for these particular works.

The Also Sprach is the most disappointing to me because of the very slow opening and the way that Blomstedt hangs on to the sixteenth note that leads to the first big chord—it is not in rhythm and feels much exaggerated. But the rest of the piece is very nice, actually a little longer than most and completely unhurried. One has to let the whole thing unfold at its own pace, but I prefer Bohm’s DGG recording to this one.

Till and Don Juan are both very creditable readings, with nothing wanting. Metamorphosen is truly exceptional; Blomstedt make the strings urgently affecting, while Tod und Verklarung is given a spectacular performance, beautifully paced and perfectly judged in terms of the great climax.

If you need these, you can’t go wrong.

— Steven Ritter

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