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Edition Staatskapelle Dresden Vol. 36 - Otmar Suitner
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
CD 1
Orchestral suite Der Bürger als Edelmann, Op. 60 (1911/17) [33:17]
Salome's Dance from Salome (1903/05) [8:13]
Waltz sequence from Act 3 of Der Rosenkavalier (1909/10) [6:57]
Three Symphonic interludes from Intermezzo (1919/23) [14:00]
Prelude to Act 3 of Arabella (1930/32) [4:43]
Interlude Moonlight music from Capriccio (1942) [3:48]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Otmar Suitner
rec. 24 September 1963 (Op. 60), 21 November 1963 (all except Op. 60), Rundfunk der DDR, Convention Hall, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany
CD 2
A guest of Otmar Suitner a Rundfunk der DDR programme. Interview conducted by Wolfgang Hiller for Berliner Welle [33:14]
rec. 9 November 1964, Leipzig Radio Station,
Bonus material
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Excerpts from orchestral suite Der Bürger als Edelmann, Op. 60 (1911/17): Minuet in G major [2:30]; Minuet in A major [2:30]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Fritz Busch
rec. 14 June 1923, Dresden, Germany

The city of Dresden has a long and fruitful tradition of hosting performances of Richard Strauss. This goes as far back as the Royal Music Chapel in 1882 with the première of the teenage composer’s Wind Serenade, Op. 7 conducted by Franz Wüllner. A number of other Strauss works have been introduced in Dresden including nine of the operas notably Salome, Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier. It was the Dresden Hofkapelle under Strauss who gave the première of the Alpine Symphony in 1915 in Berlin. In view of this strong Richard Strauss connection it seems fitting to release these mono recordings of Strauss works conducted by Otmar Suitner (1922-2010) who was chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden in 1960-64.

Born in Innsbruck to an Italian mother and an Austrian father, Suitner studied piano with Franz Ledwinka and conducting under Clemens Krauss. Steeped in the Kapellmeister tradition, he spent most of his working life behind the Iron Curtain in the former East Germany. This meant he never became as familiar a figure on the international scene as his abilities deserved. In 1960 when Suitner was appointed chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden he succeeded such eminent names as Fritz Busch, Karl Böhm and Rudolf Kempe. Later Suitner took on an even more prestigious job as Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatsoper in East Berlin serving there in 1964-71 and again in 1974-90. His obituary in The Independent stated how he achieved the rare distinction of being honoured both by the Communist German Democratic Republic with the National Prize in 1963 and a decade later receiving the Order of St Gregory by the Roman Catholic Church. Renowned as an interpreter of Austro-German music specialising in Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Strauss, Suitner made a considerable number of recordings. The best known is the digital set of the complete Beethoven Symphonies with the Staatskapelle Berlin recorded in 1980-83 at the Christuskirche Berlin co-released on Eterna (the East German state record producers) and Japanese Denon. 

At various times Suitner was permitted by the authorities to cross the Berlin Wall to conduct in the West most notably at Bayreuth in the mid-1960s. Clearly assisted by having an Austrian passport from 1969 he appeared as a guest conductor of the San Francisco Opera. In the Far East Suitner guested with a number of orchestras especially in Japan with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo. Mentioned in the booklet is that Suitner ran separate families on each side of the Berlin Wall.
These mono recordings on tape are taken from the archives of Rundfunk der DDR. The Richard Strauss recordings on CD 1 are radio broadcasts that Suitner made with Staatskapelle Dresden at the Convention Hall. a multi-purpose venue constructed amongst the ruins of the bomb-damaged Hygiene-Museum. Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal endeavoured to mount a theatrical version of Molière’s play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (Der Bürger als Edelman).Recorded here is the orchestral suite that Strauss took from the incidental music to the playin 1911/17. I remain surprised how often this score gets bypassed in concert programmes. Such neglect seems unjust in relation to the high quality of the music. This recording was made for use by Berlin Radio. Sadly it’s incomplete. In the first Interlude the section Travel fever is omitted as is part of the Waltz that precedes it. Also missing is the third Interlude. It would seem that the complete suite exceeded the specific length needed for broadcast by Berlin Radio and had to be cut. Immediately, I was struck by the fresh, urgent playing. Throughout the overall unity of the playing is quite excellent. My highpoints are the second movement Minuet, so beautifully delicate and the fourth movement Entry and Dance of the Tailors, joyous and highly appealing with Suitner ensuring a splendidly judged pace. He gives movement eight, the enjoyable Prelude to act 2, plenty of character and a jaunty gait and the Finale: The Dinner just bursts with energy.
Next come five more Strauss works that Suitner recorded some two months later. First theDance of the Seven Veils from Salome (1905) a succès de scandale from the modernist Strauss and now firmly established in the repertoire. Pulsating and vibrant, Suitner’s interpretation brims with colour conveying a real sense of risqué excitement. Sounding ultra-exotic the principal’s haunting oboe solo is remarkably played. Suitner has selected the Waltz sequence from act 3 of the opera Der Rosenkavalier. Light and rhythmic, the Waltz is steeped in Viennese elegance. The remaining symphonic pieces are much lesser known but are persuasively played with warmth and understanding. Incidentally in the booklet notes the translation of the German word ‘Mondscheinmusik’ is given as ‘Moonshine Music’ not ‘Moonlight Music’.
Interestingly a note-book that Suitner kept indicates that the Convention Hall recording sessions were held at night. It seems that the recordings were made specifically for radio broadcast in 1964 as part of the centenary celebrations for Strauss’s birth. The sonics are pretty good without being outstanding. At times I was aware of a very slight glassy feel and sometimes a little sourness to the wind instruments. To be really critical the overall depth of the sound perspective is less pronounced than my ideal. 

Of little interest, unless fluent in German, is CD 2 which consists primarily of a 1964 interview with Suitner. The sound quality of the interview is vividly clear. Described as ‘Bonus material’, in effect ‘fillers’, are two very short pieces, the Minuet in G major and the Minuet in A major from the orchestral suite Der Bürger als Edelmann. These 1923 Busch recordings are taken from the previously released volume 30 of the Edition Staatskapelle Dresden and are now over ninety years old. As can be expected the sound is challenging - a curious mixture of cloudy and sour, and very heavy on surface noise. 

As usual with this series the booklet notes are of the highest possible quality with seven pertinent essays in English translations from the original German. Also included are a number of fascinating photographs and drawings of mainly Richard Strauss and Otmar Suitner.
I found the whole set totally absorbing and especially relished the opportunity of hearing Suitner conducting the great Staatskapelle Dresden in the music of Richard Strauss.  

Michael Cookson