Strauss: Salome

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Salome
PERFORMER: Catherine Malfitano, Bryn Terfel, Hanna Schwarz, Kenneth RiegelVienna PO/Christoph von Dohnányi
CATALOGUE NO: 444 178-2 DDD
Although recorded in conjunction with staged performances at last year’s Salzburg Festival, theatrical immediacy isn’t the primary quality of this new studio recording of Salome. Its strengths are purely musical ones. Dohnányi treats it not as an orchestral showpiece (though, as one might expect, the Vienna Philharmonic plays quite magnificently) nor as a medium for bizarre vocal extravagance, but as a beautiful, symphonically propelled tone poem with voices.

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Dohnányi’s symphonic intentions are clear from the start: the textures are diaphanous, the counterpoint crystal clear and the voices, though not unduly recessed, are but one strand in the fabric. Dohnányi’s sense of symphonic proportion means too that climaxes are not gratuitous indulgences but stages in a logically unfolding musical argument. Salome’s final monologue, for example, provides just the right degree of resolution and peroration without being denied any of its weight and voluptuousness.

His singers provide the perfect complement to this approach. Catherine Malfitano, appropriately, is a more subtle Salome than most, almost withdrawn in places and rarely prone to histrionic excess; the medium for her characterisation is simply the music – why add more?

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Sterling musical qualities also underline Bryn Terfel’s sturdy, dignified Jokanaan, and Hanna Schwarz and Kenneth Riegel’s Herodias and Herod. This, then, is the music-lover’s Salome and the recorded sound does everything in its power to enhance it. Antony Bye