Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


Oboe Concerto
Death and Transfiguration

Heinz Holliger (oboe)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Michael Gielen
Regis RRC 1034 (78.04 minutes)
Available from retailers for around £6.00

Gielen is one of the most interesting conductors around today. Formerly principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, he now divides his time between his native Germany and the United States. He made this Strauss disc with the Cincinnati Orchestra for Vox back in the early 1980s (1983-84), but it has not been widely available in Britain before now.

The repertoire spans a period of nearly sixty years, between Death and Transfiguration (1889) and the Oboe Concerto (1946).

Metamorphosen dates from just before the end of the war. This 'Elegy for 23 solo strings' is Strauss's requiem for the Germany he knew and loved, for the opera houses and cities which were at the centre of his life. The music is compelling and eloquent, deeply felt and skilfully constructed. Gielen's performance matches all these demands, and his orchestra responds in appropriate manner. The recording is secure though lacking the last degree of richness in climaxes.

Much the same could be said of the performance of Death and Transfiguration, though here both the playing and the recording might have been more intense; the strings, in particular, do sound 'under-nourished' at times. Gielen has a strong sense of the music's shape and structure, with particularly well chosen tempi.

However, it is probably the Oboe Concerto which will be the chief attraction for collectors, since the disc represents excellent value at nearly 80 minutes, and the soloist is the great Heinz Holliger. Nor does he disappoint. His performance is both technically accomplished and eloquently drawn, and Gielen's accompaniment is ideal.

While this disc is not a top recommendation for these three works, it will give much pleasure, and the performance of the Concerto can live with the best available.

Terry Barfoot

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