Strauss – Orchestral Suites

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Josephs-Legende – Symphonic Fragment; Rosenkavalier – Suite; Die Frau ohne Schatten – Symphonic Fantasy
PERFORMER: Buffalo PO/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572041

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Just because the composer concocted these three symphonic ‘syntheses’ himself doesn’t guarantee that he chose all the best music. The plums of Rosenkavalier, it’s true, are self-selecting; but does anyone really want to hear the Presentation of the Rose or the Trio as music minus two or three?

Falletta’s Buffalo horns get us off to a rollicking start in vivid, up front sound, but then the lovemaking needs to go at the exaggerated lick of the opera’s hero, teenage Octavian, rather than the complacency of the comic suitor Baron Ochs, which is what we get here (mit parodie, it says in the score). Moving on, Falletta has an interesting if not particularly Viennese way of accelerating with the waltz, and textures gleam.

The highlight of this disc is the ideal pace of the Schubertian interlude from Die Frau ohne Schatten. But I prefer Leinsdorf’s orchestral pot-pourri to Strauss’s; and what can be done with the saccharine tones of the Diaghilev ballet The Legend of Joseph? As in complete recordings from Iván Fischer and Giuseppe Sinopoli, the neo-classical divertissement works best; but the brash delivery of the rest does nothing to relieve the banality.

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If JoAnn Falletta and her very fine orchestra had gone for music from Intermezzo or Die Liebe der Danae, this might have been a more seductive disc. Next time, Naxos, give them something Straussian that they can really get their teeth into. David Nice