Strauss: Violin Concerto - Steinbacher, Foster
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186653
Classical - Orchestral
Strauss: Violin Concerto, Romance, Scherzando, Zueignung, Traum durch die Dämmerung, Cäcilie, Wiegenlied, 'Aber der Richtige' from Arabella
Arabella Steinbacher (violin)
WDR Symphony Orchestra
Lawrence Foster (conductor)
This album is violinist Arabella Steinbacher’s tribute to the favourite composer of her family household. The music of Richard Strauss has played a crucial role throughout her life. As great Strauss lovers, her parents named her after the main character of Strauss’ opera Arabella, and the family house was filled with Strauss melodies, often sung live by famous singers accompanied by Steinbacher’s father, who was a solo- répétiteur at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
The album starts with a piece that Strauss originally conceived for violin and orchestra, the rarely-performed Violin Concerto in D minor, composed when he was still a teenager. Two other early instrumental works – the Romanze (usually performed by cello and orchestra) and Scherzino (an arrangement of an early piano piece) – are also featured on this album. The rest of the repertoire consists of famous Strauss songs (Zueignung, Wiegenlied, Traum durch die Dämmerung, Cäcilie), “sung” on Steinbacher’s violin. The apotheosis of this highly personal programme is Steinbacher’s rendition of “Aber der Richtige…”, the celestial duet from Arabella. Arabella Steinbacher, a multiple award- winner with an extensive PENTATONE discography, is accompanied by the WDR Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Lawrence Foster.
- Richard Strauss: 3 Lieder, TrV 172 Op. 29
- Richard Strauss: 4 Lieder, TrV 170 Op. 27
- Richard Strauss: 5 Lieder, TrV 195 Op. 41
- Richard Strauss: 8 Gedichte aus 'Letzte Blätter', TrV 141 Op. 10
- Richard Strauss: Arabella
- Richard Strauss: Romance in F major for Cello and Orchestra, TrV 118
- Richard Strauss: Scherzando in G major, TrV 96
- Richard Strauss: Violin Concerto in D minor, TrV 110 Op. 8
Review by Graham Williams - November 13, 2018
It comes as no surprise to learn that Arabella Steinbacher’s parents, as ardent lovers of the music of Richard Strauss, named their daughter after the eponymous heroine of the composer’s tenth opera composed in 1933. This album entitled ‘Aber der Richtige...’ is conceived as the violinist’s personal tribute to a composer she greatly admires and was recorded at the Kölner Philharmonie (23-24 and 26-27 May 2017) by West Deutscher Rundfunk engineers.
The main work on this SACD is Strauss’s early ‘Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor Op.8’, written in 1881-1882 when he was just 17 years old. Though an impressive achievement for a teenager it shows little or any traces of his future genius, its style being modelled largely on Mendelssohn, Bruch and Schumann.
Steinbacher’s gives an ardent and beautifully executed account of the long first movement, receiving splendid support and playing of both great vitality and finesse from the WDR Symphony Orchestra directed by Lawrence Foster. The song-like ‘Lento ma non troppo’ that follows benefits from the violinist’s richness of tone and her hushed ethereal playing that together perfectly capture the movement’s sense of repose. Naturally she dispatches the high jinks of final Rondo with all the winning virtuosity and crisp articulation that one could wish for. It is also pleasing to note that throughout the balance between soloist and orchestra on this recording is very natural with no highlighting of the former as is so often the case on many concerto recordings. Altogether a most recommendable version of an admittedly minor work.
Regrettably Strauss in his long career composed just two solo violin works; the concerto discussed above and the ‘Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat Op18’. Arabella Steinbacher has already recorded a lovely account of the latter for PENTATONE Franck, Strauss: Violin Sonatas - Steinbacher, Kulek so inevitably the rest of her programme on this disc consists of arrangements for violin and orchestra of pieces not conceived for this instrumental combination and described here as “Miniatures”.
The transcription of the early ‘Romance in F major’ for cello and orchestra certainly loses little when transferred to the violin, and Steinbacher’s warmly expressive reading does full justice to this melodic composition. The arrangement by Peter von Wienhardt of the fourth of Strauss’s ‘Five Piano Pieces Op.3 also sparkles thanks to the soloist’s zestful playing. The remaining works on the disc are transcriptions of four of Strauss’s most well-known songs and the aforementioned ‘Aber der Richtige...’duet from Arabella.
Few would argue that Strauss’s vocal writing, especially for the female voice, is one of his greatest achievements, as can be evidenced throughout his extensive Lieder and operatic output. Though one can not deny the ravishing beauty of Arabella Steinbacher’s renditions, it must be admitted that the violin is no substitute for the range, power and unique qualities of the human voice in these songs. That noted, the many admirer’s of this artist’s recordings need not hesitate in adding this most enjoyable SACD to their collections.
Copyright © 2018 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net