Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, January 2011

In the program notes, Mariss Jansons is quoted as saying in reference to Richard Strauss that “His music has accompanied me all my life and still stirs me very deeply.” Despite that, his interpretations are curiously understated. The Rosenkavalier Suite is beautifully, almost reverentially played, but is surprisingly subdued. The explosive opening and buildup to Octavian’s grand entry in act II lack passion, exhilaration, and breathless anticipation. Jansons’ pacing is consistently slow to the point where the “Presentation of the Rose” sequence almost loses momentum. The same is true of the waltzes. They sound lovely, but all of this lyrical and slow music tends to drag and lack dynamic contrast, especially in this suite (as opposed to Antál Doráti’s version with its well-positioned and more extensive inclusion of the comical music that opens act III). The Trio is gorgeous at the by now expected very slow speed (how can it not be?). The temptation to linger over this sublime music must be nearly irresistible. However, this Marschallin, Octavian, and Sophie sound like they are on Valium.

Till Eulenspiegel is similarly relaxed, slow, and finely nuanced. The overall effect is light and balletic (not a bad thing). Jansons’s Till is a very lighthearted prankster. In this case, ample contrast is provided by some incisive and powerful bass drum thwacks. It is a pleasure to hear the flawless horn and woodwind soloists in this incredibly refined orchestra.

If you are sympathetic toward the Jansons/Anja Harteros interpretation of the Four Last Songs, this will be for you because they do it really well. Harteros is unfailingly pitch-perfect and her approach is almost operatic. Jansons’ tempos are middle of the road, but the general impression is that they are swifter. In contrast to Der Rosenkavalier, he doesn’t linger here. The execution of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is truly amazing throughout this recording. I can’t remember hearing Strauss’s remarkable orchestration being presented with this degree of clarity that sounds more cool and transparent than dense and lush.

The sound is solid without ever being overtly flashy. Audiophiles may complain that this is the wrong way to record Strauss, but the engineering does successfully complement the laid-back performances. There is a good compromise between realistic orchestral balance and fine instrumental detail. Harteros is miked very closely and appears to be in a brighter acoustic setting than the orchestra.

These performances will appeal to anyone who wants immaculate and well-controlled orchestral and vocal execution. Clearly, this is not an interpretive approach to Strauss that will appeal to everyone. It works best in the Four Last Songs, which are indeed very special. Even though the Rosenkavalier Suite sounds a little cool and sedate, you still get the opportunity to hear Harteros and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra work their magic in music that is clearly in their blood.

Brian Buerkle
American Record Guide, January 2011

The best work of this recording is the affecting performance of German soprano Anja Harteros. Her rich, opulent voice floats effortlessly and expressively over the orchestra. The opening ‘Frähling’ has all the wonder and mystery of a light-filled heavenly world. I really enjoyed this performance…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online., September 2010

Some composers after Mahler created equally powerful—if not equally extended—voice-plus-orchestra sequences. Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs, one of the composer’s and the 20th century’s vocal masterworks, is an important example. The songs absolutely require a tremendously sensitive and vocally agile soprano, coupled with a highly sensitive orchestra, to attain their full effect (indeed, some of the most moving parts of the songs contain no words at all). The new Mariss Jansons CD of three live Strauss performances features the rather light, very pliable voice of Anja Harteros, who is at her best in the first two songs. “Frühling” has fine flow and a sense of wonder, while “September” showcases Harteros’ strong upper register and features fine blending between voice and orchestra. After the text of “Frühling” ends, the tenderness of the horns is especially “Beim Schlafengehen” ... [Harteros 's] voice climbs beautifully when singing of the spirit soaring in flight and the violin solo is movingly played by Andreas Röhn. “Im Abendrot,” last and longest of the songs, starts like a lullaby, and the orchestra’s portrayal of larks is lovely...the performance is lovely in many ways...The Rosenkavalier Suite actually comes off quite well, with smooth playing throughout and some nice attention to detail, such as the very tentative start of the famous waltz. Jansons makes this suite into a tone poem of sorts, with an emphasis more on its languid, long-drawn-out lyrical lines than on its faster and more glittery sections. Till Eulenspiegel...too is very well played, and again the flow of the quieter material is especially well done...this is a very fine Strauss CD both instrumentally and vocally.

Robert Benson, September 2010

The enterprising Bavarian Radio BR Klassik label offers not only recent concert performances by their orchestra, but many from the past as well, with conductors Eugen Jochum, Kiril Kondrashin, and Rafael Kubelik. This new issue offers recent recordings of music by Richard Strauss conducted by Mariss Jansons who has been chief conductor of the orchestra since 2003. The Rosenkavalier suite is from October 2006 concerts, Till Eulenspiegel and Four Last Songs, with German soprano Anja Harteros, are from March 2009...all of this music surely is well played...

The WSCL Blog, August 2010

From the Bavarian Radio Symphony’s own label, recent live concert recordings of three Strauss works, featuring soprano Anja Harteros on the luminous Four Last Songs.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group