Jerome Kleinsasser | Bakersfield, CA USA | 11/26/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Secure a great German orchestra, place before it a revered conductor of the Austro-German repertoire, ensconce it in a Richard Strauss Festival and one's expectations will run high. Unfortunately this 1991 performance elicits mixed and conflicting responses. The playing of the Berlin Staatskapelle is consistently of a very high order, and Sabine Hass tosses off the three vocally brutal songs from op. 71 with great aplomb, but the nagging difficulty of this recording is with the score-bound Erich Leinsdorf, who dispassionately beats time and forsakes any interpretive nuance, even essential ones.Despite near-immaculate playing by the orchestra, the rendering of Don Juan is a pedestrian and bloodless performance, where everything seems to be on auto-pilot. In the Hölderlin Hymnen Hass strives valiantly for what tenderness the ruthless setting offers, and admirably surmounts its brutal climaxes. As a singer of Strauss, she is the genuine article.The specific gravity of the program is centered in Ein Heldenleben, and here Leinsdorf frustrates one looking for depth and breadth of conception that he certainly possessed in spades. Instead one is presented a staggeringly wooden and inexpressive reading. Musical high points and formal seams come and go with no particular merit attached. The Staatskapelle adroitly negotiates the pitfalls and treacherous moments of this tone poem. The solo violin playing of Wolf-Dieter Batzdorf is sure-footed and thoroughly reliable, but his articulation of the hero's tender moments seems constricted by the austerity of his conductor's neutrality. (Leinsdorf strongly evokes visual and conceptual images of Stravinsky conducting his own works.)The video quality is very sharp, but camera work is unimaginative and sloppy (for example, the lens is consistently directed at the wrong french horn player during the numerous solos for that instrument). The sound offers digital surround and non-compressed tracks, but the climaxes nevertheless seem to have been emasculated. Translations in German and English are provided (the liner notes promise Latin for non-existent choral works). Superimposed analysis for Ein Heldenleben is extensive and helpful, but at times inserted arbitrarily, and ignores important quotations from Guntram and Zarathustra. The English version lacks sufficient proofreading and its initiation overlays applause for the songs. Audience response is subdued.This recording is chiefly notable for the excellent playing of the Berlin Staatskapelle, the artistry of Sabine Hass, and ultimately, the genius of Richard Strauss. It could so easily have been much more."
A great concert + bonus
Kenneth Fung | Hong Kong | 10/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a lovely all-Richard Struss concert performed with authority and passion by an orchestra the composer once led himself in the late 19th Century.This is a wonderful example of how technology can enhance our understanding of the music. If we turn the subtitle on, one could actually trace the various themes and their development while the programme symphonic poems (Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben) unfold. This brings special meaning to the notes you heard and a better understaning of the story the composer is telling.A pity, however, the subtitles in Ein Heldenleben is slightly out of phase. Fortunately, they are just a bit ahead of the music so it is not too bad!"