Richard Strauss conducts = R. STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier; Waltz, Act III; MOZART: Die Zauberfloete Overture; GLUCK: Iphigenie in Aulis Overture; CORNELIUS: Overture; WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde–Prelude;The Flying Dutchman Ov. – Dutton

by | Jun 17, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Richard Strauss conducts = R. STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier–extended excerpts; Waltz, Act III; MOZART: Die Zauberfloete Overture; GLUCK: Iphigenie in Aulis Overture; CORNELIUS: Der Barbier vomn Bagdad Overture; WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde–Prelude;The Flying Hollander Overture – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Augmented Tivoli Orchestra and Bavarian State Orchestra (R. Strauss)/Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Mozart)/Richard Strauss

Dutton CDBP 9785, 74: 50 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Vintage Richard Strauss inscriptions made 1926-1941, including his own arrangement for the film industry of a suite from Der Rosenkavalier to be debuted at the Tivoli Cinema of the Strand in London, 12 April 1926. Strauss abridged seven 78-rpm sides and one Presentation March for Octavian’s arrival at Faninal’s Palace. Strauss himself led no vocal selections for posterity. A follower and devotee of conductor Hans von Bulow, Strauss consciously tried to emulate that maestro in his readings of Wagner, having himself led the Vienna State Opera between 1919 and 1924.

The program opens with a studied reading of Gluck’s Iphigenie in Aulis Overture (1928), an interpretation whose tempi influence later inscriptions by Abendroth and Furtwaengler. Many of the passages anticipate the dramatic character of Beethoven’s overtures, with huge, arched crescendos and pedaled tremolos. The Cornelius Overture (1929) is pleasant fluff, about as oriental as Laurel and Hardy are Tyrols in Swiss Miss.

The Tristan Prelude (1928) proves a measured, erotic affair, the cello line (Tristan’s masculine energy, according to Strauss) in dire contrast to the oboe line (Isolde). The ebb-and-flow of the chromatic melodies wends its way ineluctably toward a sensual frenzy, only to be unrequited until we could hear the last bar of the Love-Death. The oboe trill is quite distinct, prior to the intervention of the cellos, violas, and harp, then flute and French horn. Truly a “hymn to night,” the performance stands in the great tradition that composer had marked out himself for Strauss’s edification with a performance in 1892. A vibrant, feverish reading of The Flying Dutchman (1928), keeping in strict time in obeisance to Wagner’s tempo marking and generating the fascinating dangers of a D Minor stormy sea. The Cedar restoration process gives us Wagner’s tympani and horns in grand, furious colors.

The suite and waltz from Der Rosenkavalier begins with an ecstatic surge, a combination of Mozartean clarity and post-Wagnerian, chromatic harmony. Already, the first, drooping theme evokes an idealized age of elegance and lilting grace, the celli and basses grumbling about the fin-de-siecle, while the clarinets sing of Paradise Lost. The little Presentation March is the Strauss equivalent for a “Masterpiece Theatre” theme. With the Presentation of the Silver Rose, all strings and harps, we get that elongated, El Greco effect in the melodic line that reaches for Viennese nirvana. Octavian and Sophie find instrumental representation; a pity we have no vocalists, but Strauss actually feared an inscribed opera would set too many musical precedents in stone. The Waltz Sequence takes us to a portamento-laden, grand ballroom, where we may see whirling Miliza Korjus or Greta Garbo, depending on one’s fertile imagination. The second-most extensive selection, the Trio and Finale, Act III, Strauss takes as a graduated arch, in the manner of Elgar’s Nimrod cross-fertilized by harmonies from Wagner’s Parsifal. We conclude Strauss-by-Strauss with the Act III Waltz, recorded 1941with the Bavarian State Orchestra, the same ensemble with whom Strauss recorded many of his tone-poems and the Alpine Symphony. A creamy broth of sound, the landings appropriately wicked and the rockets cascading upward, they provide a luxurious contrast to the coy oboe, flute, and snare episodes.

Last, Mozart, the composer to whom Strauss owes everything–a 1928 virtuoso inscription with the BSOO of the Overture to the Magic Flute. The pregnant pauses, the sforzati, the brisk, sailing attacks, and the joie de vivre of the playing point as much to Mengelberg’s influence as to Bulow’s. Quiet surfaces, inspired readings, a happy disc for the historical collector and musical lover, both.

–Gary Lemco


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