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<<  -- 2 --  David Thompson    AUTUMNAL GLOW


I was pleased to note here, the re-appearance of Semyon Bychkov, who came to my impressed attention in the 1980s, but then seemed to disappear from the public eye. Here, he steers his Cologne-based WDR Sinfonie-Orchester through Ein Heldenleben, and the dark and introspective Metamorphosen. This is, so far as I am aware, a unique coupling, but a not inappropriate one, as the final panel of Heldenleben, 'The Hero's Retirement from the World', chimes naturally with the valedictory message of the Metamorphosen of Strauss's old age.

Bychkov has an impressive orchestra at his command, but we become aware of this more in the many individual solos than in the tutti sections, where the last touches of sheen, polish and visceral exuberance are wanting, by comparison. That wonderful opening paragraph [listen -- track 1, 0:01-1:36], which should carry all before it, just lacks the final degree of heady opulence and organic coherence. Once the critics start carping, though [listen -- track 2, 2:17-3:36], there is some idiomatically disgruntled interplay to be relished. Praise, too, for the splendid solo violin of Kyoko Shikata [listen -- track 3, 0:04-1:09]. Perhaps her feminine gender gives her a more penetrating insight into the personality of 'The Hero's Companion'? A pity, though, that the brass interjections here are less than perfectly tuned and sychronised.

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


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