Ein Heldenleben; Burleske*
*Bertrand Chamayou (piano); Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
Warner Classics 9029502845 67:04 mins
Authoritative from the first bar’s fleshy bass, Antonio Pappano’s bel canto approach to Strauss’s mock-epic hero cultivates beauty of sound even in usually bombastically noisy stretches such as the central battle. There is gravitas in the breadth of this performance, yet it also has operatic exuberance in spades, evident as much in the orchestra’s slowly-roused responses to the ‘Companion’ as in her capricious violin solo, played by leader Roberto González-Monjas with tone as silvery as the viola d’amore beloved of Janáček. The love scene is a vibrato-rich gran scena, the tapestry of themes from Strauss’s works to date glows, and Pappano gets a real hushed inwardness from his Rome orchestra in ‘The Hero’s Withdrawal from the World’, capped by a sonorous brass ‘state funeral’. The recording begins with plenty of air, and some reverberation, in the Accademia’s home auditorium, but then seems to pull strings up front. Still, everything can be heard.
The detail is scintillating, too, in the earlier Burleske, a Brahmsian scherzo for piano and orchestra with pre-Till Eulenspiegelwinks and grimaces. Bertrand Chamayou and Pappano seem perfectly in tune here; for once, the repetitions are welcome and it stays companionable to the last disappearing act.