LABELS: Vanguard Passacaille
WORKS: Sonatine No. 2 in E flat (Fröhliche Werkstatt); Suite in B flat; Serenade in E flat
PERFORMER: Octophoros/Paul Dombrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 99702 DDD
Scored for orchestral wind sections of 13 and dating from the 1880s, Strauss’s Suite and Serenade have enjoyed longstanding popularity, whereas the two Sonatines (‘From an Invalid’s Workshop’ and ‘Happy Workshop’), written during the mid-Forties, have until recently been widely available only in the recording by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. These two large-scale works, reminiscent of the wind writing in Capriccio and Daphne, are essential listening for all Strauss enthusiasts and, although occasionally outstaying their welcome, contain some wonderful music.
The last few years have seen new releases by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, London Winds, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Munich Academy, offering stiff competition for these new recordings though, unlike the above, these new versions are both unconducted and lapses in ensemble are occasionally apparent in both. Octophoros claim to use period instruments where appropriate, but the booklet note does not specify whether they are employed for the two 19th-century works. Overall the performances are excellent, with some very exciting tutti passages, but the individual playing is less distinguished than some of the other available versions. The same can be said of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who also give lively and committed renditions, marred only by some over-indulgent solos. Tim Payne