Aus Italien - Symphonic Fantasy, op.16
Macbeth - Tone poem after Shakespeare,
Conducted by David Zinman
Arte Nova 74321 77067 2
This is the first release in a projected complete edition of Richard Strauss's
orchestral music. On a bargain label this is very welcome news especially
since David Zinman is a good Straussian and he is teamed with a fine orchestra
spaciously recorded. This particular disc is also valuable in that it offers
two of Strauss's lesser played works which you might not have already, or
might have to buy duplications of better known works in order to get elsewhere.
Macbeth receives an excellent, exciting performance. The recording especially
catching the brooding bass grumbling that marks out this dark-hued work.
The atmosphere of the royal court might be more Potsdam than Glamis through
Strauss's ears but it's none the worse for that. It is surprising this piece
isn't played more often so a fine recording like this might go some way to
promoting it into the concert halls. You really are held from start to finish
with the unfolding drama by this fine account.
Atmosphere and mood were the aims of the young Strauss when he wrote Aus
Italien following the "grand tour" of Italy in his early twenties but Zinman's
performance doesn't really recognise this. He seems anxious to stress the
symphonic nature of the work much more than, say, Kempe was in his classic
Dresden recording. Maybe this is Zinman's way of covering up the work's
shortcomings. This is very much an early piece that I think quickly runs
out of ideas. The last movement's use of Denza's then newly-written "Funiculi
Funicula", for example, has always seemed to me evidence of Strauss's threadbare
imagination at that time and not even the tight hand of a conductor like
Zinman can ultimately save it. However, if you need this work in your collection
here again is a well-played and recorded version that will give much pleasure,
not least in the opening of the first movement which conveys just enough
the intense feelings of a young man seeing Rome for the first time. The strings
of the Zurich Tonhalle have a fine sweep throughout the work and the brass
is also caught beautifully in the spacious acoustic.
A good bargain release of two lesser-known Strauss works.