Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra; Symphonia domestica

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LABELS: Carlton
WORKS: Also sprach Zarathustra; Symphonia domestica
PERFORMER: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Christopher Seaman
CATALOGUE NO: 30366 00932
Since this is the National Youth Orchestra, superb execution is something to be taken for granted; apart from a few over-excitable ensembles, there’s nothing here of which an international orchestra wouldn’t be proud. But these under-twenties can bring more to these scores, chiefly a rediscovery of the exuberant naivety usually smothered under so much sophistication. In the comic relief of Zarathustra’s bouncing Dance Song, the leader’s violin solo is better than it has a right to be, but the real distinction comes from the joyous team spirit. Skrowaczewski likes to speed, but the players move as one along with him, and the 1997-vintage horns greet the ‘joys and passions’ sequence with throaty relish.


The Symphonia domestica, that comic-lyric saga of the Strausses at home, originally appeared alongside the very different autobiography of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The studio acoustic helps orchestral bloom more than Birmingham Symphony Hall in the new live recording of Also sprach, and Seaman gives the lovable phrases more time to breathe, but the bass-rich orchestral identity remains essentially the same, though the personnel has changed completely since then. Clarinets at bedtime and the woodwind idyll that follows are the finest of many passages that bring tears to the eyes, making this the most sympathetic recorded interpretation of the last two decades. David Nice