ALBUM TITLE: Strauss: Symphonia Domestica
WORKS: Symphonia Domestica; Eine Alpensinfonie; Oboe Concerto
PERFORMER: Jonathan Small (oboe), Nicholas Cox (clarinet), Alan Pendlebury (bassoon); Royal Liverpool PO/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2071
Profound contentment forms the bedrock of Strauss’s last two tone-poems and the serene gems of his old age which follow them here. The live RLPO/Schwarz Alpine Symphony first appeared in 2001, and second time around I marvel still more at Schwarz’s sure-footed way up the mountain, finding footholds as he goes for all the expressive rhapsodies and diaphanous textures so effortlessly embraced by the panoramic recording. He’s in more of a hurry to descend, not surprising given the mother of all storms.
That rare gift of free and flexible conducting is less well-judged in the mock-epic autobiography of the Domestic Symphony. It gives Schwarz the cue to spin out Mama Strauss’s tender caressing of son Bubi child before bathtime beyond mere affection. The finale, too, a celebration of the infant as peacemaker, begins with exactly the kind of glutinous sentimentality this piece can do without and never accelerates to the kind of devil-may-care abandon which distinguishes Neeme Järvi’s SNO love-in. A pity, because elsewhere Schwarz finds as much charm and gravitas as Järvi, underlining the scherzo’s childlike kinship with Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and gravely unfolding the Adagio as Strauss’s most sustained slow movement.
The Concertos, though, are sheer heaven, all three soloists serene and easy in their many dialogues with fellow musicians but effortlessly virtuosic when the context demands. While Schwarz’s dreamy way with two-thirds of the Duett-Concertino’s prolix finale courts controversy, no question-marks hover over the cloud-treading of the Oboe Concerto – a quietly remarkable performance from RLPO principal Jonathan Small. David Nice