Music and Vision homepage

CD Spotlight

Autumnal glow

Semyon Bychkov conducts Richard Strauss -
reviewed by

'This is a fine achievement by all concerned.'

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben - Metamorphosen. WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Kölm, Semyon Bychkov. © 2003 Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln

Loathsome though I find the blatant egotism that conceptualises Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, I have to confess that, in a great performance, I simply adore the noise it makes. In his personal life, Strauss may have been an idealistic wannabee, and an unashamed self-publicist, but, my goodness, he knew how to say it with notes and how to clothe it with fabulous orchestration!

When Strauss is firing on all cylinders, as here, the result can be an unashamedly thrilling and spine-tingling experience. Such it is with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, perhaps most of all in their stunning 1970s recording for EMI. Karajan was, ego-wise, like Strauss himself, no shrinking violet, and what Strauss wrote with such burning conviction, Karajan faithfully recreated with what, in his hands, and in this music, was undoubtedly the world's finest orchestra. Heldenleben comes no better, and there is therefore little need to look further, though I have always enjoyed Beecham's (slightly tongue-in-cheek, I suspect), unfolding of these epic pages; and Barbirolli, who always loves the key of E flat to bits, and invests it with Elgarian nobilmente, has a high place in my affections, too.

So the field is formidably well-served, and a new version will need to be very special indeed if it is to hold its place in such exalted company.

Continue >>

Copyright © 21 October 2003 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK


 << Music & Vision home      Recent CD reviews       Meyer Kupferman >>

Download a free realplayer 

For help listening to the sound extracts here,
please refer to our questions & answers page.