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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan
Till Eulenspiegel
Also Sprach Zarathustra

Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman
Rec (Don Juan) 16 Jan 2001; (Also Sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel) 5-6 February 2001, Tonhalle Zurich
ARTE NOVA 74321 87071-2 [75.48]

David Zinman continues his Tonhalle Strauss series with this generous compilation containing Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel and Also Sprach Zarathustra. Whereas some of his performances make less well known music available at the Arte Nova bargain price, here the competition is both widespread and formidable. That said, there is no reason to be less than enthusiastic about this new issue, which again shows the Swiss orchestra and their American conductor on very good form, aided by the rich and resonant Arte Nova sound.

The performance of Don Juan has a real sweep of momentum. Although the opening does not have quite the élan of either Rudolf Kempe (EMI) or Herbert von Karajan (DG), the attack and keenly articulated ensemble are still of a high order. The solo oboe is nicely coloured in the lyrical episode, the tempo perfectly judged. The only real disappointment is the great climax featuring the horn section, which seems slightly under-powered.

Till Eulenspiegel is one of those pieces that is so rich in detail, the problem can easily become one of how to maintain a longer-term view across its whole span. There are no such dangers for Zinman here, and he is particularly successful in reconciling the different aspects of this most illustrative of narrative tone poems. The highlight, as Strauss surely intended it must be, is the final scene of the hanging, which is thrilling in its rhythmic confidence and precision.

Also Sprach Zarathustra is the largest of these three symphonic poems, and Zinman paces the performance very well indeed. The famous sunrise opening is recorded with a sensitively drawn atmospheric range, but the organ sounds a little under-powered rather than adding a really climactic effect. After that the ebb and flow of complex lines of development are expertly paced, and the sensitively drawn final section is particularly satisfying. At the Arte Nova super bargain price, this is a very competitive issue.

Terry Barfoot

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