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Strauss: Ein Heldenleben & Vier letzte Lieder
In a very short time, Yannick Nézet-Séguin has become one of the most sought-after young conductors in the world, popular with orchestras and audiences alike. Recently named as Music Director Designate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he succeeded Valery Gergiev as Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008. He is also Chief Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
On this the second of four projected discs for BIS, the Rotterdam Philharmonic here perform two of Richard Strauss’ most popular works: The tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) has often been described as an autobiographical work. The six interwoven sections describe themes of hope, love and courage, with a scherzo that mocks the hero’s enemies and a final climax that sees the hero withdraw from the world fulfilled.
The Four Last Songs were the last works that Strauss composed before his death in 1949, and throughout the works, the pervading mood is one of death and transience. The Rotterdam Orchestra are here joined by Dorothea Röschmann, who has built a reputation on the opera stage as one of the most admired present interpreters of Mozart and of lieder.
“the gossamer textures of the Hero's 'War and Peace'...work best here, the bassoon stylishly leading the superb Rotterdam woodwind. The final retirement is gilded by a glorious horn solo...[Roschmann's] fast vibrato is offset by luminosity and soaring beauty...there's always understanding of the text, and the sunset epilogue, well accompanied by the orchestra, is moving.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2011 ***/****
“Dorothea Röschmann has a deliciously supple and textured soprano that finds glorious colours here” Classic FM Magazine, October 2011 ***
“Nézet-Séguin's portrait of the "Hero's adversaries" is piquant rather than ironically adversarial...[Four Last Songs are] gloriously sung by Dorothea Roschmann, who has a truly lovely voice, and is most sensitively accompanied...Even among many illustrious names, there is no finer recorded performance.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011
“The multiple ironies of Heldenleben are superbly caught, though the emotional kernel of his interpretation lies in a sexy account of the central love scene and his touchingly beautiful treatment of the finale. The orchestral sound is lean and sinewy...[Röschmann's] voice lacks a little of its former lustre, though you can hear every word – and hear it given meaning.” The Guardian, 11th August 2011 ****
“This suave and efficient Strauss disc shows why Yannick Nézet-Séguin has rocketed to the first division of the conducting league.” The Times, 2nd July 2011 ***
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Strauss: Ein Heldenleben
This new Hybrid SACD recording features the first recording of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with its new director of music, Manfred Honeck. The main work is Richard Strauss’ massive tone poem “Ein Heldenleben”, but the disc also includes Verdi’s overture to “La Forza del Destino”, as well as the world premier of recent commission by the orchestra, a clarinet concerto by the contemporary American composer Alan Fletcher.
Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem Ein Heldenleben was written in 1898, and dedicated to the 27-year old conductor Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Ein Heldenleben is an episodic work in which the composer recalls his “heroic” struggle through life. The American composer Alan Fletcher, who’s clarinet concerto was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and is here receiving its world premier recording, is president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and studied under Roger Sessions and Milton Babbit.
The Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck began his career as conductor of Vienna's Jeunesse Orchestra, which he co-founded, and as assistant to Claudio Abbado at the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Vienna. After several highly successful guest appearances as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he was appointed its ninth Music Director in 2008.
“Honeck seems...to have these musicians willing and able to do anything for him: the result is a mix of American virtuosity and fearlessness bonded to a European beauty of sound and sensibility; the violins have a lovely sheen and the cellos an impressive depth of tone...The Verdi is a striking icebreaker and Fletcher's Concerto should win many friends.” International Record Review, July/August 2010
“These days, the orchestra produces a distinctive, transparent sonority. The strings are translucent; characterful woodwinds merge into a unified choir; brasses are full- and round-toned...an extremely beautiful rendering of Ein Heldenleben. Honeck's seamless interpretation minimizes tempo contrasts, holding the piece together unusually well” MusicWeb International, 30th January 2014
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Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben & Metamorphosen
“A splendid augury of things to come in this team's Strauss series.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2007 *****
“Ein Heldenleben and Metamorphosen, though written at opposite ends of Strauss's long career, make an ideal coupling, as both were directly inspired by Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. The warm strength of the key of E flat is at the root of Heldenleben too, while Metamorphosen, reflecting Strauss's pain over the wartime destruction of so much he loved in Germany, repeatedly and movingly quotes the Eroica's Funeral March.
Aptly too, the orchestra is the Staatskapelle Dresden, Strauss's favourite, responsible for many Strauss performances.
In this new version of Heldenleben, Fabio Luisi has opted to go back to what he describes as the original ending. This was Strauss's first idea, never published, of ending the piece pianissimo.
It was only later, realising that the response of audiences would be greater from a loud ending, that he was persuaded to append the now usual ending, adding some two dozen bars with fanfares and a final fortissimo chord.
Luisi proves an outstanding Straussian, drawing passionate playing from the orchestra, as flamboyant in Heldenleben as anyone would want, and darkly intense in the valedictory paragraphs and complex counterpoint of Metamorphosen, though the recording makes it sound as though more than 23 strings are playing. In Heldenleben Luisi is excellent in bringing out the massive structure of the work like a gigantic sonata form, quite apart from the programmatic element. Kai Vogler proves an outstanding violin soloist in the role of the Hero's partner, a clear portrait of the volatile Frau Strauss, here played with just the right degree of spontaneous flexibility. The recording is exceptionally full and brilliant, to match the resonant beauty of the playing.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Luisi proves an outstanding Straussian, drawing passionate playing from the orchestra, as flamboyant in Heldenleben as anyone would want, and darkly intense in the valedictory paragraphs and complex counterpoint of Metamorphosen… In Heldenleben… Kai Vogler proves an outstanding violin soloist in the role of the Hero's partner, a clear portrait of the volatile Frau Strauss, here played with just the right degree of spontaneous flexibility. The recording is exceptionally full and brilliant, to match the resonant beauty of the playing.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2007
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R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben
This is the very first recording from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and its new music director, Manfred Honeck.
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Bernard Haitink conducts Strauss & Webern
Recorded live at Symphony Center, December 4, 5, 6, 2008 (Strauss), and April 23-28 2009 (Webern)
20-page booklet with notes in English, French & German.
Hot on the heels of an Editor’s Choice for his Alpine Symphony, Bernard Haitink conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the world’s greatest Strauss ensembles, in Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) whose US première it gave in 1900. The CSO pours out a lush interpretation of Richard Strauss’s large and complex tone poem in their newest live recording. Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink leads with restraint and allows the strings and woodwinds to sing. In the famous Battle Scene, the brass and percussion roar, while concertmaster Robert Chen paints his violin solos depicting Strauss’ wife, Pauline, with tender beauty. Webern’s early tone poem Im Sommerwind is indebted to Strauss’s rhapsodic romanticism and overflows with spacious melodies. A musical force in Chicago and around the world, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is consistently hailed as one of the finest international orchestras.
“Haitink worked his customary miracles on behalf of Richard Strauss and the CSO gave him what it always gives him: superb and deeply felt playing… In Webern’s Im Sommerwind, Haitink asked for a refined beauty of sound and got it in abundance.” Chicago Tribune Concert Review
“The playing could not be subtler or more refined, with Haitink putting his distinctive stamp on the performances. The wonderful gradations of dynamic are meticulously controlled, with the strings in particular sounding glorious...A first-rate disc demonstrating the glory of orchestral music-making in the United States, a model for the rest of the world.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2010
“The way [Haitink] delineates Strauss's polyphony is very impressive, bringing out the counterpoints and subsidiary voices with nothing short of exemplary clarity. The orchestral sound is magnificent in SACD, quite stunning in the battle sequence...Haitink renders a performance of great dignity and tenderness [in the Webern]” BBC Music Magazine, October 2010 ****/*
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Strauss, R: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
“This great programmatic symphony has never sounded as serene or tragic as it does in this live performance…The playing is immaculate, the interpretation all-of-a-piece. In the core Karajan repertory, Jansons is simply
unbeatable.” Financial Times
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