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R. Strauss: Metamorphosen, Etc / Nash Ensemble

Release Date: 03/20/2007 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67574   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

R. STRAUSS Metamorphosen . Piano Quartet in c. Capriccio: Prelude Nash Ens HYPERION 67574 (77: 33)

This is a rather unusual disc in terms of its programming when one looks closely at it. Metamorphosen is given in Strauss’s original incarnation of the work for string septet, realized by Rudolf Leopold after it was discovered in 1990. If one has grown used to the Read more piece in its usual 23-instrument form, there could be the real risk that the septet sounds under-powered. For the most part though, this is not a feeling that prevails throughout the recording as the Nash Ensemble’s performance is assured and totally at one with Strauss’s intended aims. Sure, the moments of greatest emotion do stretch them a bit, and it is then that one could want the depth of tonal sonority that only a larger complement of players can deliver. Kempe with the Staatskapelle Dresden on EMI or Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon would be my selected studio-recorded preferences for the fuller-scored version.

The early Piano Quartet in C Minor, written some 60 years prior to Metamorphosen , is very Brahmsian in overall character. One commentator wrote after a performance that it was “more Brahmsian than Brahms . . . indeed, it might rank as a mature work of anyone but Strauss.” Still, it is a work that does contain idiomatic pointers to mature works— Till Eulenspiegel and the Burlesque for piano and orchestra, for example—as Michael Kennedy’s excellent accompanying notes also point out. The performance, like the disc as a whole, benefits from natural and well-balanced sound. From a pure sound-quality standpoint, it is more conducive than a recording on the Vanguard Classics label featuring the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society. The Nash Ensemble’s performance makes greater sense of the work’s grand architectural framework, too, through adopting slightly broader tempos. Ian Brown’s playing of the precociously virtuosic piano part that Strauss wrote for himself deserves special mention.

Strauss famously described Capriccio , his last opera, as a “conversation piece,” thus indicating the work’s intimate quality. No other opera begins with a prelude scored for string sextet. The self-contained chamber quality of the music positively glows in this recording, and made me wish that the whole opera would follow. Much as I think Wolfgang Sawallisch’s account of the complete score for EMI is generally fine, by comparison he makes more of the music than perhaps he should. A refined conclusion to a very satisfying disc.

FANFARE: Evan Dickerson
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Works on This Recording

Metamorphosen for 23 solo Strings, AV 142 by Richard Strauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1945; Germany 
Capriccio, Op. 85: Excerpt(s) by Richard Strauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1940-1941; Germany 
Quartet for Piano and Strings in C minor, Op. 13 by Richard Strauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1883-1884; Germany 

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