This is juicy. I’m sure that many music lovers have wished that Strauss had made a suite from Elektra. It is, after all, one of his most exciting scores, as well as one of his most symphonically cogent. Well, here it is, courtesy of Manfred Honeck and Tomas Ille, and it’s a doozy. You get all of the major bits: Elektra’s opening monologue, the entry of Klytaemnestra, the recognition scene, the two murders, and of course the final dance of death. It lasts 33 minutes, or a bit more than a quarter of the entire opera, which makes it the same length as Also sprach Zarathustra or one of the larger tone poems.
The piece is remarkably cogent. It plays continuously, and Honeck/IlleRead more felt no obligation to stick slavishly to the order of events in the opera. Rather, they have contrived an effective sequence of violent and more lyrical episodes, with remarkably seamless transitions. The entrance of Klytaemnestra, for example, does not spill over into her actual opening lines (sound clip). Strauss’ original works well in the theater where the change of focus from the orchestra to the singer explains the sudden break in texture; here, however, the music flows on without a break. Honeck explains that he has also reduced the orchestra slightly to make the suite more playable by normal-sized orchestras, but you’d hardly know it. There is absolutely no reason why this arrangement should not become a repertory item forthwith–only it would be hard to imagine a performance played more brilliantly than this one.
The Rosenkavalier Suite is the standard one, by Artur Rodzinsky, and it too sounds glorious on this smashingly recorded disc. Coupling the two works makes great sense: you get Strauss at his most expressionistic, and then Strauss in all of his schmaltzy, neoclassical splendor. Although the sound and style are quite different between the two works, Strauss’ fingerprints are always in evidence. I don’t need to say anything more: if a disc like this is not self-recommending, then I don’t know what is.
Excellent recordingDecember 27, 2016By Jerry G. (Edgewater, CO)See All My Reviews"This is a CD worth getting. These are Strauss selections I did not have. I have a number of SACD recordings, but the Reference label quality is at the top."Report Abuse
amazingDecember 16, 2016By paul f. (miami, FL)See All My Reviews"This is one of the best discs I have heard in years. The sound is spectacular and I would love them now to do similar treatment to Daphne and some other Strauss operas not yet represented as suites. His music almost demands someone to do this. Highly recommended."Report Abuse
ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIALDecember 2, 2016By RICHARD M. (Apple Valley, CA)See All My Reviews"MAGNIFICENT PERFORMANCES AND STUPENDOUS RECORDING MAKE THIS AN ESSENTIAL PURCHASE FOR ANYONE EVEN REMOTELY INTERESTED IN RICHARD STRAUSS. THE PITTSBURGH MAY NOW BE THE BET ORCHESTRA IN THE LAND AND UNDER HONECK THE ARE DOING WONDERFUL THINGS."Report Abuse