WORKS: Divertimento; Der Bürger als Edelmann
PERFORMER: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: 435 871-2 DDD
By the standards of his times, if not of our own authentically high-toned age, Strauss set about past masters with tact and discretion. He paid a celebrated homage to the French 17th-century composer Lully as a service to librettist Hofmannsthal’s ‘little Molière project’ (Le bourgeois gentilhomme, first resting ground for that pretty hybrid Ariadne auf Naxos), but we’re much less familiar with his penchant for Couperin, as displayed in two Viennese fancy-dress ballets.
The conductorless Orpheus ensemble turns to the later of the two harpsichord-piece arrangements, the Op. 86 Divertimento, restoring an other-worldly purity of intent which isn’t always to the point. I prefer the sweet tooth of the Strauss disciple Clemens Krauss in ‘Le tic-toc choc’ in a 1954 radio broadcast. But these nimble New Yorkers do help to reinforce the delicacy of the scoring, and when in Le bourgeois gentilhomme Strauss makes his own artful presence felt, there’s always a point of view. It may be speedy – the expert violinist in the ‘Dance of the Tailors’ has no trouble with that – but it invariably smiles. Although DG’s presentation leaves the Orpheus personnel nameless, all the soloists deserve a credit, from the songbird clarinettist to fencing trombone and trumpet. Not quite in the Kempe or Beecham league, but classy all the same. David Nice