Notes and Editorial Reviews
It was brave of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to launch their Strauss disc with one of his less obviously appealing compositions. The Divertimento should not be confused with the similar-sounding Dance Suite published in 1923 and included in the third volume of Kempe's Strauss series (EMI, 12/92). It was not until 1941 that Clemens Krauss staged the ballet Verklungene Feste which supplemented those original Francois Couperin realizations with a further six; these, with the addition of two more, then became the Divertimento in 1943. A radio relay of Krauss conducting the work surfaced on the Amadeo label (9/88—nla), but the playing of the Orpheus group is in a class of its own. There is here what sounds like a conscious effort to recapture
the zest and spirit of the pieces de clavecin before Strauss got to them! No doubt Strauss enthusiasts will feel obliged to investigate music so closely associated with Capriccio's pastiche of Passepied, Gigue and vavotte. And in truth the dreary, occluded textures at the start of ''La Visionnaire'' are not wholly representative, even if Strauss subsequently over-eggs the pudding with harpsichord and harmonium. The chocolate-box sonorities of ''Les Tours de passe-passe'' have an affecting undercurrent of Straussian nostalgia, most pronounced in the seventh section, ''Les Ombres errantes''.
Le bourgeois gentilhomme is a much more convincing score; and only those looking for the last ounce of Old World charm should find much to complain about in this Orpheus account—uncut unlike Reiner's surprisingly heavy-sounding Chicago version (RCA). Broadly speaking, the American-based group retain their no-nonsense 'classical' approach, where an old-hand like Kempe (EMI) is more inclined to linger affectionately over detail. The Overture finds the Orpheus players on dazzling form, maintaining an excellent balance between strings and piano. Kempe has muddier sound, especially in the bass, and gives more weight to the chorale-like pronouncement in the brass. Heard in isolation, ''The Fencing Master'' impresses on DG with good placing and balance of solo brass and piano. But the Kempe is even better played and characterized (listen to the downward trumpet glissando): those tiny rits. and that indefinable naturalness of phrasing really make the music come alive. In the ''Entrance and Dance of the Tailors'', the Orpheus's solo fiddler is more stylish and stylized than the others. And yet I'd still opt for something less self-consciously brilliant.
DG's chosen venue comes across as rather over-resonant, but the reverberation is expertly contained and the new CD deserves the warmest recommendation to those with an interest in unusual Strauss.
-- Gramophone 3/1993
Works on This Recording
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Op. 60: Suite by Richard Strauss
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1918; Germany
Date of Recording: 04/1991
Venue: Performing Arts Center, SUNY, Purchase
Length: 33 Minutes 10 Secs.
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