One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1




CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Josephs-Legende - ballet pantomime op.63 (1914) [61:05]
Orchester der Bayerischen Staatsoper München/Robert Heger
rec. 1952, venue unspecified
ACANTA 233593 [61:05]

Experience Classicsonline

Lovers of Strauss’s music at its most lush and voluptuous have, over the years, unaccountably neglected Josephs-Legende. Its strange description as a “ballet pantomime” – suggesting, perhaps, something essentially frivolous or inconsequential – cannot have helped its cause. Just as likely to have deterred widespread interest before, say, the 1970s at the earliest would have been the perception that the way it treated its subject matter was, at the very least, morally questionable.
Josephs-Legende was ostensibly based on the biblical tale of young Joseph – he of the Technicolor Dream Coat – and his rectitude in overcoming sexual temptation. In reality, however, it provided its co-author, the German bon vivant and libertine Harry Graf Kessler (1868-1937) with an opportunity to share his scarcely-concealed S&M fantasies and his taste for blatantly homo-erotic subject matter. While Cecil B. De Mille could just about get away with that sort of sacred/secular titillation, Josephs-Legende indulges its psychosexual flights of fancy just a little too blatantly and, as a consequence, it paid the penalty in less liberal times than our own. A good flavour of its erotic sensibilities and of the score’s lyricism and full-blooded passion may be had in an extract from a Hamburg Ballet production here.
As far as I am aware, Mengelberg never touched Josephs-Legende and although Strauss’s long-time champion Beecham performed it several times in 1914, he seems not to have done so thereafter. Neither were there any recordings from such mid-century Strauss luminaries as Reiner, Szell, Böhm or Karajan. Rudolf Kempe, it is true, recorded the composer’s much-abbreviated later revision for reduced forces – Strauss called it a “symphonic fragment” – but one suspects that it was merely in order to complete his traversal of the composer’s orchestral canon.
Since then, however, our greater openness in exploring matters of sex and the concurrent refinement of recording technology have combined to allow Strauss’s densely complex and erotically driven score to re-emerge from the shadows. A real revival of interest on disc began in the year 2000 with a high profile Deutsche Grammophon recording from the Staatskapelle Dresden under Giuseppe Sinopoli. That very fine account won entirely deserved plaudits from my MusicWeb International colleagues (also here and here). Seven years later came two more landmarks. The first was DG’s DVD re-release (00440 073 4315) of John Neumeier’s superb 1977 reworking of the ballet at the Vienna State Opera. The second was a new audio recording from Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (Channel Classics CCS SA 24507), a colourfully episodic interpretation in state-of-the-art sound that may have established some sort of record by boasting no fewer than 70 individual tracking cues, each very carefully related to Kessler’s detailed stage directions, over a running time of just 64:30.

As those preliminary observations suggest, I was surprised to find that the full score had actually been recorded as long ago as the 1950s, arguably the twentieth century’s most uptight and superficially moralistic decade. Perhaps Strauss’s creation of the “symphonic fragment” in 1947 had temporarily renewed public interest in Josephs-Legende? Something, after all, must have acted as a catalyst for two new recordings after three decades of neglect. One of them, from Kurt Eichhorn, has fallen off the radar completely. The other, reissued on the disc under consideration here, was directed by Robert Heger (1896-1978), a largely overlooked figure now, though in Arthur Bloomfield, author of the always stimulating More than the notes, he evidently still has at least one enthusiastic champion.
Heger’s approach to Josephs-Legende is certainly anything but frivolous or inconsequential. The word “symphonic” is, in fact, entirely apt when applied to this serious and thoughtful account, conceived in a single grand sweep and given, in an appropriate symbolic - if rather unpractical - marketing decision, just one single cueing track on Acanta’s re-release. Quite simply, what we have here is a great performance, expertly directed and very well played. Heger, an experienced and convincing Strauss interpreter, has the full measure of the score.
At the same time the Munich players consistently display admirable brio and commitment, even though this was presumably less than familiar music. A long tradition of performing works by their “local” composer Strauss would have helped: after all, they had only relatively recently given the world premiere performances of both Friedenstag (1938) and Capriccio (1942). It would, however, be taxing credulity to hope that any of the 1952-vintage players could have recalled Strauss’s brief tenure as the Bavarian State Opera’s General Music Director nearly 60 years before (1994-1896).
The quality of sound on this disc is, though, worth its own moment of historical reminiscence, if not taking us quite as far back as the 1890s. When I was a small boy, the rudimentary sonic controls in domestic record players - remember those? - consisted of just a pair of small wheels, each calibrated from -5 to +5, one of which was marked “bass” and the other “treble”. Most of my 1950s contemporaries, presumably the grandparents of today’s kids with their ubiquitously annoying “boom boxes”, used to opt for maximum bass. I, on the other hand, preferred turning up the treble control so as to cut through the fug of sonic treacle like a Kasumi knife. This new disc’s opening few seconds, as the Bavarians’ massed violins screech out of the speakers with striking immediacy and presence, offer, therefore, a vivid evocation of my youth. I can easily imagine many other – probably younger - listeners making a grab for the remote control in an attempt to tame the impressively in-your-face (aka “raw and strident”) sound. Let me assure any such delicate souls that, within just a few moments, their ears will have successfully adjusted to the 1950s sound-world of the Dansette record player - and, after all, growing up with that did me no real long-term harm at all.
In fact, the only reservation that I have with this disc is Acanta’s decision to dispense altogether with any cueing points. In spite of loving the score, even I might concede that the allocation of 70 individual cues to the 2007 Budapest Festival Orchestra release was a little excessive - cue 55 lasts all of 18 seconds: “For a moment she holds the coat, absentmindedly and as though unconscious of it”. Depriving the listener of any means whatsoever of locating – even very roughly - a particular reference point in a major work of such musical complexity seems to me to be utterly cruel and perverse. On the other hand, I suppose, that is exactly how Harry Graf Kessler would have liked it.
Rob Maynard


































































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


      Composer surveys
      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

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


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

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



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

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
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
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
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.