Norman Del Mar was always an interesting musician who
I don’t think ever achieved the recognition that he deserved as a conductor.
He was also a gifted writer who wrote a first class study of Mahler’s
Sixth Symphony as well as a multi volume biographical study of Richard
Strauss that lends added interest to his thoughts on Strauss in performance.
The two LPs of music by Richard Strauss that he recorded for Classics
for Pleasure in 1978 and 1979 also included a couple of minor waltzes
that clearly wouldn’t fit on to this single CD of the better known works,
but these are no great loss, I think.
The performance of "Also Sprach Zarathustra"
might seem on first hearing to be just a direct and straightforward
reading with no special features, but such is Del Mar’s care for the
inner details, the woodwind especially, that second and third hearings
reveal much more. The last thing on his mind is virtuosity for virtuosity’s
sake and it is perhaps that which leads him to underplay the sheer passion
and the heat of certain passages somewhat. But he is very good at the
brittle, busy passages and there are certainly some well-recorded strings
to bring thrust when needed. The dance episodes prior to the midnight
bell climax certainly have considerable momentum with accents that are
sharp, especially with the forwardly balanced recording that gives a
fine blaze of sound when everything is going full pelt. This is even
more the case with the "Dance of the Seven Veils" which is
given a volatile and abandoned performance that rises to a real frenzy.
The music from "Der Rosenkavalier" is somewhat
different from what we are often used to in orchestral performances.
There is more of it than usual and so this is a valuable item to have.
Del Mar conducts it with great wit and style, perhaps recalling the
way this music might have been conducted by his old boss Beecham. I
like the way that the waltzes appear to have a "tongue-in-cheek"
quality to them too, a real witty twinkle and bounce. The busy introduction
to Act III shows the LPO in fine form with the clear recording again
bringing out all details and there are some memorable contributions
from the percussion who are well forward in the sound picture.
With the love music from "Feuersnot" we are
in much less familiar territory. This early opera of Strauss’s is not
played too often. Judging by this extract that seems a pity as it is
pure Richard Strauss. The memorable main theme has that songful but
complacent bourgeois Weimar German feel to it that is so familiar from
elsewhere in the Strauss canon. Forget fertility rites in the 12th
century, this is Bavaria in 1901 without any question. So this is an
interesting and well-played novelty to complete an enjoyable disc. Just
the kind of item you would expect Del Mar to dig out, in fact.
Excellent bargain priced Strauss conducted by someone
who knew this music better than many.