TCHAIKOVSKY: Suite No. 3 in G, Op. 35. STRAVINSKY: Divertimento "The
Basel Symphony Orch/Marko Letonja,cond.
cpo SACD 777 099 TT: 66:38
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The highpoint of Profil's issue of Strauss's Elektra is the recorded sound—superb in every way. Every detail of the composer's complex writing is clearly presented. in surround sound, and on occasion we find ourselves onstage with voices heard from rear speakers). Bychkov is a fine Strauss conductor, with a particular love of this opera. Apparently there were numerous rehearsals and live performances of Elektra before this recording was made, obvious from the disciplined playing of the WDR Orchestra. Strauss said both Salome and Elektra should be conducted as "elfin music," which Bychkov correctly interprets as it should be played with transparency and attention to detail, surely the case here. Vocally we are on shakier ground. Deborah Polaski has been singing the role of Elektra for over two decades—more than 300 performances. At this point, she doesn't have the power or thrust for the climactic moments, nor did she have them for her 1995 Berlin recording with Daniel Barenboim conducting. Now at the beginning of her career, Anne Schwanewilms impresses as Chrysothemis although she doesn't have the ease of production in her big moments. Felicity Palmer is a strong Clytemnestra. Notes are provided in German and English but the libretto doesn't have them side by side which may be inconvenient for some listeners. Audio buffs might wish to have this release solely for the sonics.
Some months ago we reviewed a previous issue in cpo's recordings of music of conductor Felix Weingartner (see REVIEW). What was said there also applies to this latest release containing Symphony No. 2 and the lengthy (23 min.) symphonic poem Das Gefilde der Seligen ("The Elysian Fields") premiered in 1897 conducted by Reznicek. This is based on a painting by Arnold Böcklin whosework also inspired symphonic works by Max Reger (Böcklin Suite) and Sergei Rachmaninoff (The Isle of the Dead). Weingartner's symphonic poem (his second; the first was King Lear) is a lovely, sprawling work with many idyllic moments, but as unmemorable as the Symphony No. 2 which was premiered in 1900. Eckhardt van den Hoogen's pompous, rambling CD notes mention tranporting the hearer into "blossoming gardens, bathed in magical moonlight" in the third movement, a welcome escape from the prosaic other three. Marko Letonja and the fine Basel orchestra are to be commended for their efforts on behalf of this music, and the sound is fine.
R.E.B. (February 2006)