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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan, Op. 20 (1888) [16:09]
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1894) [14:43]
Der Rosenkavalier - Waltzes arr. Kempe (1911) [17:46]
Metamorphosen (1945) [24:14]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Rudolf Kempe.
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, 13-24 June 1970 (Don, Till), 27-29 June (Waltzes), 1-5 January (Metam.) 1973

These are classic recordings, fully deserving of their status as great recordings of the last century. The simply gorgeous sound of the Dresdeners is captured perfectly in the Lukaskirche acoustic. Just listen to the glowing opening of Metamorphosen! The producer is David Mottley; the engineer Claus Strüben.

Kempe's Don Juan is fast, driven and urgent in its famous opening bars. The solo violin is sweet-toned but not saccharinely so there is just a hint of bite there. The horns are warm of tone but swagger surely in their famous theme. The remastering, done at Abbey Road, preserves all the warmth while retaining all the detail.
It is the effect of a real narration that sets Kempe's Eulenspiegel apart. The lyrical passage around 3:50 in fact really does seem to be telling us a story, and effects are remarkably graphic towards the end. Strauss's sense of play is left intact, too, so that this Till acts as the logical link between the Don and the Vienna-drenched Rosenkavalier Waltzes. This Rosenkavalier Suite is Kempe's own mix; Strauss made his own in 1911. It begins with the Act 1 Prelude before melting into the Marschallin/Octavian love scene. Baron Ochs' bawdy Act 2 waltz leads to the Act 3 scenes of Octavian drilling his accomplices and on to the Mariandel/Ochs supper before a Kempe-coda rounds the whole thing off. Kempe invests a wonderful sense of Schwung into his Dresdeners yet there are some lovely gossamer strings too. Perhaps a touch more cheekiness on occasion would be more in keeping with the work's ethos but there is no denying the greatness of this performance. Finally, the magnificent work that is Metamorphosen. In his booklet notes, Strauss scholar Michael Kennedy debunks some myths as to Strauss's intentions in this score. Kempe provides a powerful experience in one of the faster performances available. Barbirolli makes a full-blooded shelf companion (New Philharmonia; EMI CDZ67816-2), but there is no denying the value of Kempe's classic performances here.
Most Strauss lovers will already have these performances. They have after all been reissued countless times. Lucky is the person who encounter them the first time on this disc, though.
Colin Clarke
EMI Great Recordings of the Century page


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