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Strauss: Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel, Der Rosenkavalier Suite - Mørk/Sasaki/Järvi

Strauss: Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel, Der Rosenkavalier Suite - Mørk/Sasaki/Järvi

Sony Classical (Japan)  SICC-19020

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Strauss: Don Quixote; Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche; Der Rosenkavalier (suite)

Truls Mørk (cello)
Ryo Sasaki (viola)
NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo
Paavo Järvi (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - January 2, 2017

A largely successful and recommendable follow-up to Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Don Juan - Järvi.

Here, Järvi and Mørk tackle one of Strauss' most musically diverse and rewarding tone poems: Don Quixote. As well as classic accounts including Strauss: Don Quixote - Tortelier, Cappone, Kempe, Strauss: Don Quixote - Fournier, Karajan & Strauss: Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben, Sinfonia Domestica - Karajan, there are fine modern accounts, principally Dvorak: Cello Concerto, Richard Strauss: Don Quixote - Maisky and Richard Strauss: Don Quixote - Vogler, Luisi. Truls Mørk proves himself as fully alive to the nuances in the solo part as any of his illustrious predecessors; compared to many accounts Mørk is not at all spotlit so blends in and out of the orchestra with ease. Good though Mørk, Ryo Sasaki (viola) and the unnamed leader are in their solo parts, the contribution of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo in Paavo Järvi's hands is a joy to the ear. Compared to all three contributions by the Berliner Philharmoniker under Karajan (twice) and Mehta, these players imbue the score with such a variety of tone and imagination that quite escapes their notionally superior German counterparts. There may be the odd voicing of the occasional chord that isn't so refined (these performances are the combination of two concerts in October 2015) but the characterisation from the orchestra is, all too rarely for this piece, of the same exalted standard of the soloists. Because of Järvi's uncommonly fine handling of the orchestra, Variation VII (Der Ritt durch die Luft) is a genuine highlight - had the premiere been played like this, one can easily imagine an impromptu standing ovation at this point. The coda is as poignant as one could wish, with the unfortunate exception of one slight (surely unintentional) clash between Mørk & the horns at about 1'20 - a shame for it is a blemish on an otherwise wonderful performance.

Till Eulenspiegel follows, with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo channelling their inner Philharmoniker to deliver a sharply characterised account of one of Strauss' wittiest orchestral works. Their delivery is weighty and delicately light by turns with really dramatic accents and dynamic contrasts. The same is true for what is a Straussian "guilty pleasure": a very hackneyed arrangement of some of the most glorious operatic music ever written. Here, Järvi makes no attempt to disguise the rather rough-and-ready approach of the arranger, thought to be the conductor Artur Rodziński. This means the principal trumpet making some rather startling entries that, had Strauss himself have penned the arrangement doubtless would be have been much more subtle and in keeping with the echt-Viennese character of the opera. The orchestra and conductor are clearly having a huge amount of fun and revelling in the gorgeous melodies and harmonies that infuse this music - it's very hard not to enjoy this music when pitched so frankly.

The sound is arguably some of the finest accorded to Strauss' music; quite apart from a staggering amount of detail, there is a wonderful richness captured at the same time. As there are currently slated to be no less than 3 Also Sprach Zarathustra's making an appearance in 2017 (from this partnership, Janowski in Berlin & first out of the blocks, Gardner with the NYO recorded in Birmingham), there's promise that this iconic work of Richard Strauss is about to get a modern recording worthy of its cultural significance.

This is a good follow-up to the previous recording in this mini-series, although perhaps the concert recording process was slightly less kind to the orchestra on this occasion. The Don Quixote, despite that one slight blemish in the beginning of the coda, is a performance to treasure.

Copyright © 2017 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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Comments (4)
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Comment by Waveform - August 8, 2016 (1 of 4)

A long-awaited multichannel SACD of Strauss's "Don Quixote!" This is now a part of my wish list. The competitors (Staatskapelle Dresden, Fabio Luisi, Sony & Mischa Maisky, Berliner Philharmoniker, Zubin Mehta, Deutsche Grammophon) decreased their attractiveness for the distant recordings. I'm looking forward to hear this!

Comment by John Broggio - August 21, 2016 (2 of 4)

Likewise - I also hope we get a good (if not great) Also Sprach in MCH.

Comment by hiredfox - January 3, 2017 (3 of 4)

Nice review John, there goes my new year resolution not to keep buying SACD already well represented in our collection.

Happy New Year to Every Colleague and Friend still supporting our wonderful hobby. May you spin your way to Happiness in 2017.

Comment by hiredfox - July 30, 2017 (4 of 4)

Without doubt one of the finest SACD yet both artistically and technically. An absolute gem! A must for every collector. There is a rare synergy here between conductor and orchestra that harps back to the days when Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic were in their pomp. Enthralling.