Strauss: Josephslegende Symphonic Fragment; Schlagobers Suite

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LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Josephslegende Symphonic Fragment; Schlagobers Suite
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6559-2
A ballet about indigestion? As far as plot goes, that’s the essence of Richard Strauss’s Schlagobers. A


boy gorges himself (the title means ‘whipped cream’), and is tormented by apocalyptic food-filled nightmares. Schlagobers was also meant to be a political satire – not one that reads comfortably post-Hitler (Jewish matzo crackers stand out among the gastronomic subversives), though in the end nobody comes out of it very well – German nationalists and the Austrian old order are similarly targeted. It’s hard to take such risible contrivance seriously, and – fortunately – it seems no one did. The music is another matter: lush, sensuous and at times bizarrely inventive, the Schlagobers Suite won’t win converts from the puritan anti-Strauss camp, but this affectionate, never-overstated performance shows that this is

far from bottom-drawer Strauss. Listening to the Josephslegende ‘Symphonic Fragment’, it would


be hard to guess that Strauss had a Biblical subject in mind – what have cholesterol-rich waltzes to do with the story of the chaste Joseph and his flight from Potiphar’s amorous wife? Still, it’s a very seductive score, again appealingly performed – though, as with Schlagobers, not quite so pleasingly recorded. Some details are so close you could be sitting next to the players, others are oddly recessed. But that does mean you can hear almost every strand in Strauss’s complex textures. Stephen Johnson