WORKS: Symphony in F minor, Op. 12; Orchestral Songs, Op. 68
PERFORMER: Eileen Hulse (soprano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9166 DDD
A competent but undistinguished apprentice work well played and six of Strauss’s most original lieder poorly sung make this an issue for the most determined collector only. The songs should not have been issued. Eileen Hulse has the technique for the coloratura which bubbles to the surface from time to time in these late, fresh settings of poems by Clemens Brentano, but not the breath control, the support, the colour, or the right sense of smiling steadiness. Despite the occasional charm of the orchestral support – lively, voices-of-nature woodwind especially – one feels, with embarrassment, that this cannot have been a happy experience for her.
You will search in vain for tell-tale prophecies in the 19-year-old Strauss’s F minor Symphony. Still half under the conservative thumb of his horn-playing father, he seems to have thought that imitation of the then-radical Brahms would sound shockingly modern to Papa. Järvi does his best to stress the darker colours and the brass’s unbuttoned contribution in the finale. It’s a fair, focused hearing, revealing clean orchestration and decent, if unmemorable, melodic ideas. What we need next from Chandos, though, is Strauss’s mature cantata about the battle of Hastings, Taillefer, which Järvi is conducting in Germany this coming season; no more juvenilia, please. David Nice