I sure hope the folks in Buffalo know what a prize they have in JoAnn Falletta. Her Naxos discography has few peers in terms of imaginative programming and quality of results. The city couldn’t ask for a more positive or alluring cultural calling card, and the present release offers a case in point. There have been many fine recordings of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, but this one stands with the best: for clarity, elegance, distinguished solo work (superb oboe, William Preucil’s solo violin), you name it. Although scored for a chamber orchestra, it’s amazing how congested and fussy so many performances sound. Not here. Just listen to the opening processional of “The Dinner,” with its bold horns andRead more transparent textures. Great stuff.
However, the real item of interest is the “Symphony-Suite” arranged by D. Wilson Ochoa from Ariadne auf Naxos, the original companion work to Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Arranging suites from Strauss’ operas is a trend that can only be encouraged. Strauss did it himself, of course, but mostly without much enthusiasm or imagination. So here’s a case where the intervention of more caring hands is clearly called for.
This suite, forty minutes in all, contains three chunks from the prologue and four from the opera itself. It is gorgeous. Even those who know the opera well may be surprised at how much lovely material slips by without notice in stage performances, such as the “Intermezzo” music on the second to last track here (sound clip). You do get some of the more famous bits (“Es gibt ein Reich,” for example, and the closing scene), but it really is astonishing how much care Strauss lavished on sections that flit by as mere accompaniment–never mind the thematic interest that they contain. Here, thanks to Falletta and the folks in Buffalo, in this luminously played and recorded performance, we can savor them afresh. So what are you waiting for? Go for it.