WORKS: Sinfonia Domestica; Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche; Festliches Präludium,Op. 61
PERFORMER: Philadelphia Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55185 2 DDD
Little did Richard Strauss realise, when he composed his Sinfonia Domestica, that future generations would be able to hear his portrait of domestic life in the seclusion of their own homes. Even allowing for the inflated social edifices of the early years of this century, it is absurdly vainglorious. The composer, never one given to false modesty, gives himself a thrilling, heroic theme of the mountain-climbing villain-crushing variety that we associate with the Alpine Symphony or Ein Heldenleben. But that is nothing compared to the radiant eloquence of the theme he gives to baby Franz – an uncoiling of serpentine charm that has much of the beguiling sensuality of the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in Salome. What was he on? My own son responded with ‘duck’, a word which he repeated with ever-increasing insistence right through the lullaby and into the sequence that is supposed to portray Richard and Pauline making love, at which he switched to ‘tick-tock’. So much for the universal language of music.
This recording is the first in which the Philadelphia and their new chief conductor have tackled Strauss. The Festliches Präludium is a rarely performed Gothic extravagance. Its full-blooded nature sets the tone for the rest of the disc: expansive, magisterial, and – particularly in Till Eulenspiegel – dramatically overblown. Excessive, perhaps, but deliciously so. Christopher Lambton