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Reviews: Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra - RPO/Mackerras

Reviews: 2

Site review by Castor April 17, 2005
Performance:   Sonics:    
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=2921#reviews

Review by brenda April 14, 2005 (10 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
First off, I have to confess to being less of a Strauss-ophile than some of you guys, so I can only make one or two comparisons here.

This is a decent disc for 5 Euros, but isnít of the first rank. All three pieces are Strauss in episodic, pictorial mode, - though thankfully none are as discursive or rambling as Alpine S or Heroís Life.

The disc starts with Also Sprach Z. (of course). Itís a curateís egg of a performance. The opening few minutes is a little underplayed, but thatís okay, - Mackerras is obviously aiming for a steady pulse to tie the workís episodic nature together. However, steady is too often the same as staid, which is surprising with this conductor. A better (IMHO) way of giving the piece cogency is a bit of tension. The RPO sounds a bit weak in the strings in some segments (like von den Hinterweltern) Ė no comparison here to my fav. performance with Kempe (originally recorded in 4.0 Quad in 1971 and now available on 24/96 DVD-Audio), which is both accurate and sumptuous all at the same time.

Then Don Juan follows without even a secondís break. Zarathustra is still winding down when Don J barges in. Itís an absurd editorial mistake, which quickly kills of any lingering atmosphere, and this is a common error throughout the whole RPO SACD series. Shame. This Don is a pretty fast mover, and brash with it, so I find it hard to think of him as in any way seductive. Where is the tenderness, the humanity, the self-knowing irony which Karajan reveals? Again, strings sound thin and at times scrappy, - did they know the work well enough? I suspect not as well as Also Sprach. Disappointing (and the sound in this work seems poorer than in the other two pieces).

After another grotesquely inadequate ďbreakĒ which isnít a pause, we get a better Till, with a lovely horn solo and piquant winds. Once again we get a fast tempo, but this time orchestral articulation is much better (i.e. than in Don J).

Overall, the sound is better than the other discs in this series Iíve reviewed, being cut at a less high/aggressive volume. It sounds clean and wide, but at times the spotlighting of instruments is disconcerting, - triangles seeming to pop up on opposite sides of the orchestra. On the whole, this is more open and less aggressive than the two Mozart recordings Iíve reviewed.

As with the other discs in the series, good presentation values are undermined by a ten-yearís out of date note on conductor and orchestra.Also as with the other discs, acceptable until something better comes along, but if you want hi-res, go to Kempe and if you want characterisation go to Karajan. Either K will serve you, - and Strauss, - well.

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