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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Fünf Klavierstücke, Op. 3 (1880/1) [24:14]
Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 5 (1880/1) [23:03]
Stimmungsbilder, Op. 9 (1882/4) [19:16]
Stefan Veselka (piano).
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 3-4 April 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.557713 [67:33]


Inevitable that Naxos should get round to Strauss' piano music, I suppose, and it is good to welcome this nicely filled disc. Of big name pianists, only Gould really features - he recorded the Sonata - although it is worth bearing in mind that the very musical Frank Braley made a disc for Harmonia Mundi: currently out of the catalogues.

Written during Strauss's later school years, it should come as no surprise that the figures of Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms loom large here. The first offering, the Op. 3, appears the most derivative. Schumannesque descending accompaniments pervade the initial Andante before a similarly Schumannesque hunter appears on the scene (Allegro vivace scherzando). A Largo provides the most extended movement (7'43), tender and lovely, with a melting middle section. The gently cascading lines of the fourth piece (Allegro molto) lead to a final fugue (Allegro marcatissimo). Veselka is never less than good throughout, but it is possibly his expert delineation of voices that marks this finale as the finest movement.

The Sonata is apparently Strauss's third; there are two earlier essays - from 1877 and 1879. Immediately we are in more identifiably Straussian territory, with a sense of Romantic sweep about it all. Veselka articulates the music well, delivering an eminently musical account. The highlight, though, is the Adagio cantabile - effectively a Lied ohne Worte - with its lovingly projected treble line and a cheeky middle section. The finale again shows Veselka delivering some fine playing - in particular the motivic fragmenting is peculiarly Straussian.

Finally, the Stimmungsbilder - Naxos give the first published English title in brackets, 'Moods and Fancies'. As Keith Anderson in his booklet notes points out, there is plenty of Schumann to be found here. There’s also some Schubert - in the watery second piece, 'An einsamer Quelle'. There is a simply gorgeous flow to the initial 'Auf stillem Waldsepfad'. I would be interested if anyone hears in colours whether they agree with me that there is a distinct 'yellowness' about it! The Intermezzo acts as a gentle Scherzo. After Strauss's essay at a Träumerei (that is the actual title), a final enigmatic 'Heidebild' sits between Schumann and Brahms in expression.

A fascinating disc, well recorded at Potton Hall by Michael Ponder who doubles as Producer and Engineer.

Colin Clarke



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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
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