recording has been around in collector’s
shops for a number of years. Konwitschny
fans will surely celebrate Urania’s
releasing of it, at long last, on CD.
Konwitschny recordings have been rather
thin on the ground of late, with many
of the ex-Edel recordings having been
deleted. The Beethoven symphony cycle
with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
is a prime example.
change in Strauss interpretations over
the years has been staggering. This
is almost a period performance of Richard
Strauss. It reminds me vaguely of the
kind of Strauss performance that Willem
Mengelberg used to give of this composer
with the Concertgebouw in the 1940s:
tremendous drive and commitment together
with highly rehearsed sweeps and swoons
in the strings.
spent most of his career in Eastern
Europe with the Leipzig Gewandhaus,
Czech Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle
and the East Berlin ensembles. It is
hardly surprising then that his recordings
are less common here than those by other
conductors who made substantial careers
on the Western side of the Iron Curtain.
Urania are to be mightily praised for
releasing this marvellous performance.
Can it compete with other performances?
Perhaps not sonically, but certainly
musically, and any fans of Richard Strauss
or this conductor should certainly try
to hear this performance.
He galvanises his Munich
orchestra into keenly committed playing
of this most complex of Strauss scores,
and manages not to turn it into a cinematic
experience. It is treated like a piece
of music, and so we progress through
the score, hearing details that often
are lost in the wash of sound produced
by some of the competition.
The string tone of
the orchestra is first class and conveys
Strauss’s sound world very well indeed.
Anyone who has owned the original Urania
LP is in for a mighty shock. Gone is
the dim scratchy sound, and whilst I
would not try to convince anyone that
this sounds like a modern recording,
the improvement is staggering. After
the first few moments, the recording
sound quality is no longer an issue,
and the performance can be enjoyed in
its own right.
The Wagner items are
equally enjoyable except that these
pieces are taken out of context and
some music lovers may find this a turn-off.
Konwitschny’s Wagner is well known from
a Supraphon disc with the Czech Philharmonic,
issued a few years ago. These performances
are similar in nature, and there is
no duplication involved.
There is no discernible
difference in the recording quality
of these pieces compared with the Richard
Strauss main item. The performances
are revelatory – played absolutely straight
with no attempt at "interpretation".
The Bavarian Opera Orchestra are obviously
in their element here. I enjoyed this
disc very much indeed. There is an atmosphere
of the Opera House about these short
pieces, and I was left wishing that
they had recorded the whole of Götterdämmerung,
and not just these short items.