Magazine article The New Yorker

LEGENDS; Classical Notes

Magazine article The New Yorker

LEGENDS; Classical Notes

Article excerpt

"Josephs Legende" (1914) is the ultimate Richard Strauss sleeper. The only German composer to be commissioned by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Strauss composed a lush sixty-five-minute orchestral tableau illustrating the Biblical tale of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife that was designed specifically for the prodigious talents of Nijinsky. But when Nijinsky was fired by Diaghilev, his lover, out of revenge for marrying Romola de Pulszky, the role of Joseph in the Paris premiere was taken by the less experienced Leonide Massine, and the piece never got the launch it deserved.

Now "Josephs Legende" returns with an electrifying performance by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, led by Ivan Fischer (on Channel Classics). While hardly profound, it is a bewitching piece that has something for every Strauss fan: the innocence of "Der Rosenkavalier," the decadence of "Salome," the grand bombast of the "Alpine Symphony."

Not all legends come out of the haze of history. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson inspired more reverence than any opera singer since Maria Callas; a new disk of the mezzo-soprano performing songs by Mahler, Handel, and her husband, Peter Lieberson (on the Wigmore Hall Live label), is one of several introuvables released since her death, in 2006. …

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