Strauss: Salome - Orozco-Estrada
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186 602 (2 discs)
Classical - Opera
Wolfgang Koch (Jochanaan)
Michaela Schuster (Herodias)
Benjamin Bruns (Narraboth)
Peter Bronder (Herodes)
Emily Magee (Salome)
Claude Eichenberger (Page)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony
Andres Orozco-Estrada (conductor)
Desire. Brutality. Lust. Slyness. Anxiety. What a fascinatingly menacing thematic melange is seething in this Salome. Richard Strauss, the “nervous contrapuntalist,” immediately recognized the potential of Oscar Wilde’s play, and proceeded to add to it a musical meta-plane, which resulted in Salome becoming the scandalous new point of departure for opera in the 20th century.
In its vivid psychological depiction of a corrupt world, Salome is, at the same time, both child of and witness to the dawning of the 20th century – a reflection of a moribund late-bourgeois era, captivated by its own putrefaction. The opera hit the nerve of the times. Strauss poured the Salome catastrophe into a one-act opera lasting a mere 100 minutes. However, these are 100 highly condensed minutes, which demand the listener’s full and uninterrupted attention; first torturing him emotionally and then trickling the venom of sweet, seductive music into his ears and mind; laying his nerves bare, then making him tremble in aroused expectation.
This album, featuring the young, up-and-coming conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada leading the hr Symphony Orchestra (= formerly Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) is a live recording of a concert given on September 10, 2016 in Frankfurt. The critics were enthusiastic: “The title role was wonderfully relaxed, all the essential components were in general harmonious, and Andrés Orozco-Estrada emphasized the power of the orchestra.” Indeed, Orozco-Estrada surrounded his Salome with outstanding soloists of the German opera repertoire: Wolfgang Koch (Jochanaan), Peter Bronder (Herod), and Michaela Schuster (Herodias). The American soprano Emily Magee made her début as Salome in Berlin in 2011. Since then, she has developed into a true Strauss specialist – and not only in this role. The Frankfurter Rundschau praised her “readily appealing, powerful and untiring soprano voice, which never gets drowned, not even in the orchestral tutti. Her face was a fascinating reflection of the slyness, the caprices, the bitchiness of a pampered princess.”
Review by Graham Williams - March 9, 2018
The appearance of the first recording on SACD of Strauss's opera Salome is certainly to be welcomed and while, in performance terms, it does not supplant earlier CD recordings from Solti, Karajan and Sinopoli to name just three distinguished accounts of the score, it has many virtues not the least of which is the splendid sound quality the engineers have obtained in the fine acoustic of the Alte Oper in Frankfurt where the work was recorded live on September 10, 2016.
The most compelling reason for purchasing this set is the performance of the title role by the American soprano Emily Magee. She possesses both the vocal allure and essential stamina for this most demanding of roles. Her gleaming top notes cut through even the heaviest orchestral textures while her lower register is strong and firm. In all respects a fine portrayal of the petulant princess. As the prophet Jokanaan, Wolfgang Koch sings with great authority and it is pleasing to note that his utterances, while incarcerated in the cistern, are realistically balanced and never drowned by the orchestra. Peter Bronder is an experienced Herod and though in dramatic terms he characterises the role of the lustful and neurotic Tetrarch perfectly, his vocalisation is at times forced and on occasions alarmingly unsteady. In contrast Michaela Schuster's viperish Herodias impresses with the firmness and clarity of her singing as does the ardent Narraboth of Benjamin Bruns whose lyrical tenor does not disappoint.
From the outset of the opera Orozco-Estrada's priority seems to be to stress the sensuous nature of the music while at the same time teasing out details in Strauss's kaleidoscopic orchestration that are often lost in other recordings. Though this does result in tempi that are somewhat broader than usual, the benefits of Orozco-Estrada's approach quickly becomes evident as the drama unfolds. In addition the playing of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony is simply magnificent in both its tonal richness and attack – easily the equal of more prestigious orchestras in Vienna or Berlin. Orozco-Estrada's sinuous account of the famous 'Dance of the 7 Veils' exemplifies both the quality of these musicians and this conductor's carefully considered and valid approach to the score.
Comparative timings with the versions mentioned above reveal no surprises:
Orozco-Estrada 1hr 52 min,
Karajan 1hr 45min
Sinopoli 1hr 42 min,
Solti 1hr 39 min
The small roles are essayed with singers of variable quality, but the five Jews led by Michel Preger deserve praise for the notable clarity and precision that they (and the conductor) bring to the complex ensemble passage of theological arguments (track 20).
One is grateful that PENTATONE has included the full German /English text of the opera libretto with the two discs even though the English translation of the libretto from Wilde's original French reproduced here is that by Lord Alfred Douglas, first published in 1894, with which Wilde was apparently not entirely satisfied.
As with Orozco-Estrada's previous Frankfurt releases for PENTATONE the recording is in High-res PCM not DSD, but the Hessischer Rundfunk engineers have done a marvellous job in capturing not only microscopic details in the score but also its full dynamic range. Thankfully there are no traces of the audience nor applause to distract from the opera's shattering conclusion.
Copyright © 2018 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net