Notes and Editorial Reviews
...As for the op. 61 Festival Music: if the mark of a great composer is the presence of strong stylistic footprints, even when knocking off a ceremonial pièce d'occasion, then Strauss was surely a great composer–and like most great composers, his most trivial stuff has (like Beethoven's Wellington's Victory) a streak of unconscious self-parody that rescues it from oblivion. In other words, the Festival Music is concentrate-of-Strauss–and I'd thus like to rephrase the assessment Mortimer Frank offered on its last LP appearance. He called it "a strong finisher in any competition for the worst piece of music by a major composer" (Fanfare 4:3); I'd say that it's a piece of such divine awfulness that only a major composer could
have written it–and therein, perhaps, lies its continuing (if perverse) power to fascinate. I only wish Böhm had a greater appreciation for its excesses. Still, until CBS reissues the Bernstein, this is the only game in town.
Not that Strauss wasn't capable of writing occasional music with considerably more poise–as evidenced by Chandos's reissue of their highly acclaimed symphonic brass release (see John Bauman's comments in Fanfare 4:3). With the exception of the two parade marches, which sound as un-Straussian as anything else he wrote in his maturity, everything here has readily recognizable Straussian gestures. It's rather disconcerting in the case of the 1943 Festival Music, where the bittersweet harmonic idiom of Capriccio and the Four Last Songs is sung out by two antiphonal choirs totalling ten trumpets, seven trombones, tuba, and timpani; but even in the Olympic Hymn, it's never vulgar. Indeed, for the most part this disc is more notable for its stately eloquence than for its dazzle. The timing was short even for an LP; and although Robert Matthew Walker's notes are fairly detailed, they're silent about the source of this arrangement of the Olympic Hymn (it was originally composed for chorus and orchestra)–and about the nature of Leslie Lake's editing of the Parade Marches. (The date of those marches seems ambiguous as well–the LP gave 1906 and 1911 as the dates, the CD gives 1905 for both; other sources give 1909.) These are minor flaws, though, on a fine-sounding release–highest recommendation for Straussians who want to venture beyond the overly familiar.
-- Peter J. Rabinowitz, FANFARE [3/1989]
Works on This Recording
Olympische Hymne, AV 119 by Richard Strauss
Locke Brass Consort
Written: 1934; Germany
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