Magazine article Gramophone

R Strauss

Magazine article Gramophone

R Strauss

Article excerpt

R Strauss

Ein Heldenleben, Op 40.

Tod und Verklarung, Op 24

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra / Kent Nagano

Farao (F) B108092 (71' * DDD)

This is the second release in a projected survey of Strauss tone poems from Kent Nagano and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. On the whole, I find it more persuasive than the first--an efficient but slightly underwhelming account of Eine Alpensinfonie (A/16).

Nagano's Heldenleben has a similar focus on the intimate, a reluctance towards grandstanding and an impressive sense of coherence, but the results feel more satisfying in this more overtly personal score. There's no shortage of Schwung as we get under way, and the critics carp away at a bracingly swift tempo, with the conductor creating a nice sense of shadowy foreboding. What is perhaps most memorable is the disarming gentleness and tenderness elsewhere that often comes through, not least because of violin solos that present the Hero's Companion more as a brilliantly mischievous and mercurial human being than as a dramatic character (a list of orchestral players leads one to assume this is first concertmaster Sara Troback, even though she doesn't get an individual credit).

The great love scene is mellow rather than ecstatic, while the battle, tautly marshalled by Nagano, never really seems to present a real threat. There's a slight sogginess to some of the textures, and certain elements are deliberately held back--the big unison trombone line at just after fig 71 (track 6, 3'23") is marked fortissimo but creeps in almost inaudibly here. …

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