Don Juan, Vier letzte Lieder, Also sprach Zarathustra
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
TPT: 73’ 46 ‘‘
ABC 481 1122
reviewed by Neville Cohn
This is a sumptuous recording of Don Juan. It impresses from the very first seconds, its opening measures metaphorically sweeping this listener off his feet. Immense, focussed energy launches the piece in an electrifying, frankly thrilling start – and unfolds no less impressively.
So often, ‘live’ concert recordings disappoint – but not this one. For much of the time, it is in the best sense satisfying, as much due to the skill of the sound engineers as the orchestral players and conductor Sir Andrew Davis.
From first note to last, one senses complete absorption in the work on the part of both conductor and orchestra – and, let us be frank, the sound engineers. The latter, in their crucial role, were clearly on their toes; it’s a recording that does very real justice to the players – and to Strauss. Very occasionally, string tone might have been a shade cleaner. But attack and follow-through were everything one could have hoped for.
Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra is given a no-less-meaningful reading with a thrilling introduction, expressed with the sort of hackle-raising intensity which draws the listener ineluctably into the composer’s unique mood and sound universe. Its hushed ending is finely considered.
Strauss’Vier letzte Lieder – Four Last Songs – that wondrously autumnal, bittersweet leave-taking of the world, is some of the most profoundly moving music ever committed to paper. Here, the MSO and Davis do wonders with the score, its nostalgia-drenched measures everything one could hope for. Horn playing is wondrously fine in ‘September’. The singing, though, for all its many merits, does not fully evoke the intrinsic melancholy of the work as effectively as the accompaniment – and the vocal line is not quite secure in ‘Fruhling’ and loses power at the nadir of the range in Beim Schlafengehen.