Notes and Editorial Reviews
Richard Strauss at his most elegant; Dag Wirén almost certainly so. 'Certainly' without the qualification I cannot say, for I have been enjoying this Serenade these last 33 years without opportunity of hearing any other of Wirén's music. Strauss however, is in a different case. And he is indeed here, I can say with some certainty, at his most elegant.
The original emergence of the Bourgeois gentilhomme suite was not without its difficulties; but in the end the association with earlier music, the use of a substantially smaller orchestra than usual, and perhaps the association with gentility, bourgeois or otherwise, led Strauss to write some of his most immediately charming music. Wirén, on the other band, I suspect, was born (like two namesakes of Strauss) to write charming music without the bother of taking preliminary thought.
Both composers are helped along greatly by the most beautiful performances offered their music by the Canadian orchestra centred in Ottawa, There is silky string playing in both pieces; in the Strauss especially so on the part of the solo violin, Walter Prystawski. And in the Strauss, again, there is wind playing to match. And if in the absence of a wind contribution there should be felt to be it some gap in the Wirén, that gap is quite certainly filled by the most expert layout of string texture on the composer's part in the first place. Also of the first order is the quality of the recording Balance goes awry temporarily in the Strauss, where initially the orchestral piano is recorded much too strongly, as if the excellent player were embarking on the Grieg or the Tchaikovsky. But he is not; and later this is recognized. And the good production, also, misses one trick: the only clue to how the music is distributed between sides is given (none too clearly, as it happens) by the record's label; which is useless to anybody engaged in listening to that record playing. Nevertheless, this is by no means a material difficulty in the way of highly recommending the record as a whole. Or of recommending the Wirén as an example of what some other contemporary composers might be writing for the benefit of the long-suffering human race, but, somewhat conspicuously, are not.
-- Gramophone [12/1985, reviewing Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and Serenade]