One hardly needs to be reminded of the credentials of Clemens
Krauss in Strauss and Wagner. Yet when one encounters Strauss
playing such as this, it never fails to be revelatory.
But first the Wagner. The Tristan Prelude is wonderful
even if it is shorn of the orchestral Verklärung that
accompanied it originally. There exists a contemporaneous (1948)
version from Cuba by this conductor (with the Havana Philharmonic)
that I have yet to hear. With the LPO in fine form, though,
and given a clear recording, excellently transferred to retain
the depth, this remains a memorable version. The speed is flowing
but not too fast by any standard. Perhaps only the closely-recorded
trumpet at the climax - playing the semitonal ascent from the
initial germinal figure - stands out as unsubtle.
The reverential ‘Karfreitagszauber’ music from Parsifal
boasts a gorgeous solo oboe (around 4’20 and following) and,
overall, exudes spiritual peace. Suspensions positively ache
here, and if the passage around 7’39 is not quite the Goodallian
blossoming it was under Reggie’s tremulous hands, it retains
its magic. Running through both Wagner performances is Krauss’s
great control of his forces.
But the Strauss moves upwards to another plane; literally,
it could be argued, in the case of Tod und Verklärung.
Krauss’s is a beautifully shaped, heart-rending account. The
musical ‘flutterings’ of the heart-beat for once do not sound
in the least contrived; and just listen to the meltingly beautiful
woodwind solos - especially the oboe at around 2’40. The whole
experience is magnificently concentrated, right from the opening
crepuscular grumblings to the glowing close. This is
Moving to the Bamberger Symphoniker from the LPO is not
the great leap it might be nowadays. The orchestra plays superbly
for Kraus in the moving masterpiece Metamorphosen, even
if the Bambergers may not have the depth of sound of certain
other more prestigious ensembles. It is a shame the strings
do not glow more, yet there is plenty of spirit here.
Transfers are very good, but there is some glare on upper
strings. Not enough, though, to prevent investigation of these
Of the works on this disc, it is Krauss’s Tod und
Verklärung that is truly outstanding. For the rest, there is plenty
to enjoy. A fascinating reminder of a great conductor.