Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 


 
REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (1903) [46:48]
Metamorphosen (1945) [28:18]
Staatskapelle Weimar/Antoni Wit
rec. CCN Weimarhalle, Weimar, Germany, July 2005 (Metamorphosen) and November 2007
NAXOS 8.570895 [75:11] 

Experience Classicsonline

Richard Strauss married the soprano Pauline de Ahna in 1894. Many of his songs were composed for her, and aspects of her formidable personality can be perceived in several of the composer’s soprano operatic roles. Their volatile relationship is well documented, but they were a devoted couple nonetheless, and the Four Last Songs are the composer’s touching final homage to her. Inconsolable when he died, she survived him for less than a year. Their son, Franz, was born in 1897. Reading about their family life - doting parents would be a gross understatement - one wonders how Strauss managed to find the time, peace and quiet to compose at all. Yet he did, and the Symphonia Domestica presents a happy picture of a single day spent in the Strauss household.

Trying to decide the extent to which the work is really a symphony is fairly fruitless. Arguments for and against have been put forward, but those concerned have not even been able to agree on how many movements there are. More interesting is the fact that it is the last work but one in the important series of tone poems that the composer brought to an end in 1914 with the Alpine Symphony, devoting almost all his energies thereafter to the composition of operas. Keith Anderson, in his excellent booklet note, divides the work into five sections. The three members of the family are presented in the first section, and the child is shown to various aunts and uncles. The second section represents the child playing happily whilst his parents, just as happily, watch. The young Franz is bathed and put to bed in the third section, whilst the fourth represents all that happens whilst he is asleep - the motifs representing him are absent from this passage - including music containing a fair erotic charge. The final section is a ebullient scene of family happiness launched - well, you would, wouldn’t you? - by a double fugue. Strauss noted the programme in detail in a sketchbook and on the score, and the more one listens the more one is able to pinpoint the different events.

The work has its detractors, but in truth it communicates such a notion of utter contentment that it is difficult to resist, and as a portrait of family life is certainly worlds apart from that which he went on to depict in the opera which occupied him for the next two years or so, Salome. It receives an absolutely superb performance here from the Staatskapelle Weimar under the Polish conductor, Antoni Wit. One is immediately struck by the wonderful sound of the orchestra, a richness and roundness, totally lacking in any superficial brilliance, in short, an ideal sound for Richard Strauss. The strings are golden in tone, which takes nothing away from the superbly characterful playing of the winds, and the whole supported by a solid bass line of the utmost clarity. I can find nothing to fault in Wit’s reading of the work, nothing that I should have wanted to hear otherwise. I have only heard one other performance on record, that by Rudolf Kempe in Dresden from the mid-1970s. It is remarkably similar in atmosphere to the present performance, and only loyalty to Kempe, one of my favourite conductors, makes me favour it slightly over this new reading. One feels very much at home with both.

The disc is completed by Metamorphosen, a “study for twenty-three solo strings” and perhaps one of the saddest pieces of music ever composed. It is the composer’s appalled response to the wartime destruction not only of places dear to him, such as the Vienna Opera, but also of wider European culture. There is nothing remotely nationalistic about the work, no bitterness even, only sorrow. At the end of the manuscript the composer wrote “In memoriam!”

I have for decades been faithful to Sir John Barbirolli’s reading of this masterpiece. A single sweep of music of the utmost passion, the work could have been made for him. Ensemble might be better elsewhere, but no other performance matches his in emotional expressiveness. Well, almost none. I reviewed recently a Strauss collection on Eloquence which included a Dresden performance of Metamorphosen conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli, and pressed - though I would have to be hard-pressed - I might have to say that Sinopoli comes even closer to the grief-stricken world this music is meant to evoke than Barbirolli does. I had high hopes for the performance from Weimar, and these were, for the most part, fulfilled. In terms of sound alone it is one of the most beautiful readings I have heard, with those wonderful strings so evident in the Symphony given centre stage. One hears the part-writing with splendid clarity, a credit to the entire team, including the recording engineers. But the conductor seems anxious to avoid excess, and this slight restraint makes for a performance somewhat lacking in intensity when directly compared to some others. There are one or two questionable tempo choices too, especially an awkward gear change at 18:05, admittedly following the only - tiny - passage in the work where the level of inspiration falls below the celestial. Even the final chord might have been held a fraction longer. Let me not make too much of this: any receptive person acquiring this superb disc for the Symphonia Domestica and hearing the Metamorphosen for the first time will undoubtedly be deeply moved by it. But there are other performances that dig even deeper, and notably, of the many I have heard, the two mentioned above.

William Hedley

see also review by Nick Barnard  


 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.