Strauss: Friedenstag

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Friedenstag
PERFORMER: Albert Dohmen, Deborah Voigt, Alfred Reiter, Tom Martinsen, Jochen Kupfer; Dresden State Opera Chorus, Dresden Staatskapelle/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 463 494-2
Friedenstag (Day of Peace) is a collectors’ piece among Strauss’s operas. Premiered in 1938 in a double bill with the now better-known Daphne, its pacifist plot was perversely used by the Nazis to promote its own aims with the result that it has remained tainted and neglected ever since. The powers that were conveniently ignored the fact that the dramatic scenario – set at the end of the German Thirty Years War in the 17th century – was conceived by the Jewish writer Stefan Zweig (though in the event the libretto was written by Joseph Gregor).

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There have been a handful of previous recordings of the work: an original-cast performance under Clemens Krauss from 1939, a semi-professional American account on Koch and one from Wolfgang Sawallisch on EMI. None of them has done much to reclaim the work for the mainstream, but that’s probably the composer’s fault. Certainly compared to the felicities of Daphne, the military setting does not find him at his most inspired and even the humanity of the central character Maria draws little from him that could be described as musically memorable. Still, Sinopoli and his Dresden forces, with Deborah Voigt an ardent Maria, make the opera flow, and the singing and playing are refined, though the whole smacks of Strauss on compositional autopilot. Matthew Rye