What Ein Heldenleben needs is not only a first-class orchestra but also a conductor with a clear sense of the work's underlying structure, a conductor, moreover, who is able to maintain the tension and respond quickly and consistently to the work's countless details.This is certainly how Andris Nelsons sees his task, a task which he realises magnificently in this, his second ORFEO recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.The orchestra and its music director allow the orchestral colours to gleam, and ensure that the individual sections which make up the score flow smoothly, sweeping the listener along with them.This reading of Ein Heldenleben has such stringency and rigour that many of the aesthetic objections to the work merely add to our pleasure at individual details, while never calling into question the piece's overall design. The fact that Nelsons is also a master of the art of transition in the music theatre and can achieve this on the concert platform, too, is clear from his recording of the Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, which under Nelsons' direction becomes spontaneously compelling and coherent, and in which the CBSO clearly take pleasure.
Stephen Maddock, the CBSO's chief executive, says: "At a time when record labels are reducing their commitment to the core symphonic repertoire, we're delighted to have found in Orfeo a partner who is showing this level of commitment to Andris and the CBSO. In this way we can bring what we are sure will be outstanding accounts of composers who are very close to Andris's heart - and who have mostly not featured until now in the CBSO's large discography - to the widest possible international audience".
“The music… the Rosenkavalier Suite has never worked better to my ears, the Presentation of the Rose taken at a studied tempo few singers would appreciate, yet touched with the most delicate and beautifully balanced of silvery chords. If you take A Hero's Life... seriously... this is the one for you. There's a powerful study of the hero's companion from leader Laurence Jackson, a muscly love scene and a fabulously well-articulated battle. ...a spectacular display of discipline and power that is touched by warmth, and the live recording beautifully captures Nelsons's orchestral balances.”
25th March 2010
“...he conducts Heldenleben with a high seriousness and at times a heady eroticism that emphasises the links with those later works. The pace of the performance is impeccably judged, the orchestra superbly balanced, and the recording is a beauty: airy, detailed, radiating warmth.”
“Nelsons has yet to conduct [Der Rosenkavalier] itself but he directs Rodzinski's suite as if he was Karajan and both Kleibers rolled into one...The CBSO play superbly for their new young principal conductor...Nelsons and his musicians bring sensitivity and style to many of [Heldenleben's] more reflective passages”
31st January 2010
“...these live Strauss pieces explain why the young Latvian is making such a striking impact...Nelsons treats the tender passages as the great music they are, with heart-stoppingly beautiful violin and oboe solos...The Rosenkavalier-Suite [is] played with evident relish and surprising Viennese “Schwung””
5th February 2010
“These performances...stand comparison with almost any versions already in the catalogue.The sound is wonderfully clear and detailed and the playing sumptuous...The CBSO clearly relishes the opportunities both works give them to demonstrate their world-class qualities.”
20th January 2010
“ The standard of playing is supreme. The individual episodes in the hero’s life are vividly identified, Strauss’s orchestral effects making their mark...And the whole work is held together with a masterly hand on a disc that never fails to thrill.”
8th January 2010
“This account of Strauss’s orchestral epic...stands as one of the most sumptuous and refined ever put on to disc...This level of achievement can come only when orchestra and conductor feel the work as one and are in the grip of genuine excitement, not duty.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.