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R Strauss: Don Quixote; Don Juan, etc

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko, et al (Lawo Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

R Strauss
Don Quixote; Don Juan; Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche
Louisa Tuck (cello); Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Lawo Classics LWC 1184   76:27 mins


The lunatic, the lover and the joker are of imagination all infinite in these supremely vivid interpretations. When the players are alert to all expressive possibilities, Don Quixote emerges as one of the richest orchestral scores ever composed: variations, concerto and symphonic poem rolled into one, perfectly structured and contrasted, the ultimate ‘opera for orchestra’. That’s clear as each instrumental solo or group signs in at the beginning. Petrenko then takes his time over the first unravelling of the melancholy knight’s wits, building up a clearly-textured head of steam in crazy counterpoint before diving through the looking glass. The main soloist is, as Strauss originally intended, the orchestra’s principal cellist, in this case Louisa Tuck. Like Thomas Grossenbacher in what some years ago was my BBC Radio 3 library choice, from the Tonhalle Zurich under David Zinman, she may lack the largesse of Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier or Alban Gerhardt, but more than makes amends with her alertness to every subtlety. A shame the Oslo Philharmonic viola isn’t credited: this is the most golden tone I’ve heard for Sancho’s garrulousness. The wind flies hair-raisingly through the air in the adventure with the wooden horse; the homecoming is broad and tragic.

Breadth supported by intensity of phrasing is also a hallmark of a top-notch Don Juan, while the spring-heeled vituperousness of Till Eulenspiegel, superb from the D clarinet especially, is similarly contrasted with passages of more leisurely inwardness. If the violins are a little gilded by forwardness in the sound, it all resonates impressively. For this trio, there’s no better recommendation right now.


David Nice