R Stauss: Rosenkavalier Suite

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: BR Klassik
WORKS: Rosenkavalier Suite; Four Last Songs; Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche
PERFORMER: Anja Harteros (soprano), Andreas Röhn (violin); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 900707

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For the second time Anja Harteros, the most refulgent current interpreter of the Four Last Songs I know, finds herself subordinate in star-billing to maestro-ego. First she was tucked away in Sony’s vanity presentation of the admittedly excellent Fabio Luisi (reviewed February 2008); now Mariss Jansons gets all the glory, and not even Strauss squeezes into the booklet for more than half a paragraph.

Harteros still gives an impassioned and opulent reading. So why does this recital get four stars and the Luisi performance five? Partly because the more artificial Bavarian recording doesn’t allow much bloom around the voice (it also spotlights the leaf-dropping solo violins in ‘September’ to exaggerated, if ear-catching effect). And partly because Jansons’s slower tempos don’t allow the soprano to soar on orchestral wings so freely, or even to sing the last phrase of ‘Spring’ in one breath.

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Still, the orchestra gleams, with special nuancing from the final song’s soaring-lark flutes/piccolos. What a shame Jansons plumped for the annoying orchestral Rosenkavalier Suite: the music minus two or three is especially unvocal at attenuated speeds, and in the Prelude young lover Octavian is heard labouring his way to an admittedly lurid climax. Best is the Till, of Furtwänglerian length and detail: a wag capable of tenderness and nostalgia as well as cheeky wit, with excellent horn and D clarinet solos. David Nice