R Strauss: Symphonia domestica; Metamorphosen

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphonia domestica; Metamorphosen
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Weimar/Antoni Wit
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570895

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 That fine orchestral trainer Antoni Wit and this vintage Strauss orchestra came back onto the world stage with a noble, horn-drenched Naxos Alpensinfonie. That this interpretation of Symphonia domestica is slightly less successful has nothing to do with the work itself, which as far as I’m concerned is a masterpiece in the right hands.

Wit certainly celebrates its purely musical values, the symphonic continuity and the incredible manipulation of short themes. Indeed, I don’t think I have ever heard so much detail coming from the middle range of the orchestra, a tribute as much to Hartmut Homolka’s engineering in the Weimarhalle as to the warm and lovely orchestral balances.

The pacing’s the problem. Much more consistent than many interpretations which fall down in this work when you least expect them to, Wit’s is simply too slow to convey the winged quality of the poignant Mendelssohnian lullaby or the sheer over-the-top buoyancy of the double-fugue family quarrel and finale.

Try Strauss the conductor or Neeme Järvi in clearer sound to hear how the horn-whooping high jinks towards the end should go. Metamorphosen is, similarly, deeply felt, and my notes are full of admiration for lines from third viola or second cello, but it needs more thrust in the central remembrance of things past, even though the final tragedy is hammered home with superb presence for the double-basses.

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The lustre of the sensitive Weimar strings inevitably can’t quite match Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic; here I’d prefer the recording to keep more of a distance and place a halo around the sound. Still, more Strauss from this team, please. David Nice