One of the most grown-up review sites around

53,992 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                     Editor in Chief: John Quinn              

Some items
to consider

Chopin Edition 17CDs
now available separately
£11 post-free anywhere


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

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets


Recordings of the Month


Opera transcriptions & fantasias


Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

Schubert Symphony 9


Jean-Baptiste LEMOYNE

Enescu Ravel Britten

Debussy Images etc.

53 Studies on Chopin Études 1
Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)




Support us financially by purchasing this from

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 (1898) [44:43]
Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 (1888/89) [25:48]
Gothenburg Symphon Orchestra/Kent Nagano
rec. 2016, Göteborger Konzerthaus
FARAO CLASSICS B108092 [70:43]

This is the second part of Farao Classics 'Strauss Trilogy', which began last year with Eine Alpensinfonie, an impressive recording, which led me to comment that the omens look favourable (review). This was in good part due to two reasons. Firstly, Nagano and the Göteborgs Symfoniker have had fruitful working relationship dating back twenty-four years to 1993. Since 2013 he became their Principal Guest Conductor. Secondly, his Strauss credentials have served him well over the years. Added to the potent mix is an orchestra, which has distinguished itself in Strauss performances over many decades under such conductors as Wilhelm Stenhammar, Sergiu Comissiona, Sixten Ehrling, Neeme Järvi and Gustavo Dudamel.

Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) is a veritable showpiece, and its orchestral demands far exceed any of its seven predecessors. It is a point of contention, whether it is autobiographical. The composer himself denied it:  "I'm no hero: I'm not made for battle". It's astonishing to think that he includes more than thirty quotations from earlier works. The Hero is boldly declaimed in the opening. The critic's chatter, which follows, is barbed and peppery, achieved by some crisply articulated woodwinds. The violin solo, depicting the Hero's wife is eloquently realized by the solo violin with some exquisite playing from the First Concertmaster Sara Trobäck. Burnished brass heralds in the battle scene; the pugnacious tenor of the music is visceral in its intensity. At the end there's a satisfying feel of 'job done' and peace and contentment reigns. Nagano keeps a firm grip on the sustained quality of the music with breathtaking effect, ardently sculpting the lyrical phrases.

Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration) depicts the aged artist on his deathbed, taking a backward glance to his youth. The work is melodically rich and raptly intense. Nagano contours the ebb and flow of the work with insightful mastery and imagination. The climaxes are effortlessly built up but make an earth-shattering impact when they arrive. The best way I can describe this performance is visionary and suffused with devotional intensity. Wonderful.

The plush sound afforded these two performances showcases Strauss's lush orchestration to perfection. Nagano's finely honed interpretations draw the very best from the scores. He elicits both polish and precision from the Gothenburg players, and his meticulous attention to dynamic gradients adds greatly to the dramatic potency of the readings. Lighter transparent orchestral textures are favoured over the heavy dense thickets of some recordings I've heard. The solo instrumentalists are all expertly balanced in the mix. The performances compete favourably with the very best in the catalogue from the likes of Karajan, Reiner and Kempe, to which I would like to add Barbirolli in Ein Heldenleben.

Stephen Greenbank



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

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
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger