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Dip Your Ears, No. 37 (Strauss Indulgence)

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R.Strauss, Burleske, Rosenkavalier Waltzes, Capriccio Sextet,
J-Y.Thibaudet / H.Blomstedt

If Johann Strauss II is the musical equivalent of whipped cream, Richard Strauss’s waltzes from the Rosenkavalier are whipped cream with a pound of sugar and half a dozen egg yolks. Your doctor might not agree with it as part of your diet, but who is going to keep you from listening to it? Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhausorchester certainly invite you to indulge. For this lush music – pleasant as can be with a little tinge here and there – lusciously played and topped off with a rich, resonant, and full sound, it all comes together on this new Decca release.

Because two such servings in a row would be too much, the Sextet from Capriccio comes before the second Rosenkavalier Waltz Sequence. The Sextet is the ideal in-between. It is all of Strauss’s harmonically dense language, all his sophistication and unearthly beauty condensed into some hauntingly light twelve minutes of string sextet performance. (The work is the phenomenal, unexpected overture to Capriccio, one of the finest operas ever conceived.) Well played and in excellent sound, this sextet will make you want to get the entire opera!

Before all that, Jean-Yves Thibaudet joins Blomstedt for the Burleske, a one-movement concerto-fantasy for piano and orchestra that takes a Brahmsian language, adds Rachmaninoff-like pianistic challenges, and sprinkles it with touches of mid-Strauss’s sound world. It may not be an unalloyed masterpiece, but it is not heard often enough given that it offers considerable beauty. The sound here is naturally better than the 1976 Kempe/Frager recording (EMI – part of their landmark set of all of Strauss’s orchestral works) and Glenn Gould’s loving rendition for CBS/Sony.

Three wonderful and different angles of Strauss’s music brought together on one lovely disc with committed playing. Perfect as an introduction and a lovely, if hardly mandatory, indulgence for Strauss veterans.

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