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John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, October 2012

The first of the two MTT performances shows the young conductor doing his thing, highly influenced by the extroverted podium action of his mentor Bernstein. He gives a very long and detailed introduction and explanation to Till, also seemingly inspired by Bernstein’s superb talks on music. During the London Symphony’s performance of the entire work, supertitles occasionally appear with programmatic quotes that help connect the various parts of the score with the story of Till.

The later production of A Hero’s Life shows MTT as a more mature conductor and he has shortened his introduction to about half the length of the earlier one. His conducting style has also become a bit more tame. This is a wonderful presentation and explanation of what Strauss was trying to do in his Hero’s Life, illustrated with delightful little color sketches of Strauss, his wife and his critics that upset him so much. It should bring a whole new appreciation of the work and its composer, even to those who think they know it well already. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2011

MTT’s knowledge of every single note is almost scary, but it is perhaps even more significant that he can apply such exquisite detail to seamless and nearly flawless performances of these works…

…they are uniformly excellent and surely rank with the finest available…

To sum up, these are excellent performances…

Ivan March
Gramophone, November 2011

MTT’s mission to explain enlivens a pair of exciting Strauss performances

This is a fascinating DVD in that it contrasts two alternative approaches to the problem of adding an “introduction and educational guide” to a piece of music alongside a separate complete recording. At his finest, in Till Eulenspiegel, Michael Tilson Thomas proves an ideal narrator. …Tilson Thomas provides a clear analysis of Strauss’s score, showing its construction in infinitely vivid detail using the two basic motifs from which the entire work is created. This is not merely an intellectual analysis but a gripping exposition of how a masterpiece can satisfyingly engage the listener using a constantly evolving texture of simple musical ideas. When afterwards we hear the LSO’s superb account of the roguish Till’s adventures…we can either just enjoy the continuously melodic music or relate it to Tilson Thomas’s analysis (from which I personally learnt a great deal).

The second performance and narration is of Ein Heldenleben…is rather less appealing, although still full of information. Yet in the performance of Ein Heldenleben that follows, [Tilson Thomas] ensures that the passion of the orchestral playing at this point is almost overwhelming. Overall the work is gloriously played by the LSO, with Alexander Barantschik’s violin portrayal of Strauss’s wife wonderfully sympathetic. The climaxes of the spectacular Battle sequence and closing epilogue are most tellingly played; and, although the Barbican recording is vivid rather than sumptuous, it is still exciting.

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