COMPOSERS: Richard Strauss
LABELS: Linn CKD
ALBUM TITLE: R Strauss
WORKS: Metamorphosen; Serenade in E flat; Symphony for Wind Instruments
PERFORMER: Aldeburgh Strings/Markus Däunert; Aldeburgh Winds/Nicholas Daniel
CATALOGUE NO: Linn CKD 538
Metamorphosen is, rightly, regarded as Strauss’s rare master-elegy, a threnody for the devastation of the Second World War. But until I listened to this disc I’d never heard a persistent note of sadness to the 1944 Symphony of Wind Instruments, apart from the sombre introduction to the finale (note to booklet producer: the whole track should not just be headed ‘Einleitung’). Partly because a typically impressive Linn recording giving the lower instruments due weight, partly because oboist-director Nicholas Daniel negotiates tempos and dynamics so carefully, bittersweetness has its head here. I love the timely consolations of the clarinet family at the one at the end of the complicated first-movement development and in the third-movement trio. But high spirits also abound, and the final victory over depression is all the more impressive.
The ‘study for 23 solo strings’ is a slightly more qualified success: appropriately cowled at the start, letting the solo lines have expressive space, and suitably monolithic towards the end, but not ideally levitational or luscious in the central remembrance of happier times. My ideal here is now the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra live under Giuseppe Sinopoli on a boxed set devoted to the Bambergers’ post-war history. At Aldeburgh the close recording is less welcome in a work which needs air around it. Still, if the unusual programme appeals – and the early Wind Serenade makes a pretty interlude between the more serious works – this disc will give you much pleasure and food for thought.