Strauss: Don Juan; Death and Transfiguration (CD review)

Plus, Dance of the Seven Veils and the Rosenkavalier Suite. Lorin Maazel, New York Philharmonic. DG B0007890-02.

Apparently, Deutsche Grammophon saw the writing on the wall several years ago. This disc was among the first of their downloadable concert series. The idea is that throughout the year, DG makes available on-line recordings of select live concerts for listeners to buy and download.  You can find their downloads at the following location:

Then listeners can, presumably, listen to the music on their little plastic computer speakers or burn it to a CD or DVD and listen to it on a proper hi-fi system. The company also makes a few of these concerts, like the one under discussion here, available for sale via disc.

DG recorded this program of Richard Strauss material between March and October of 2005 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York. The NY Philharmonic's Music Director at the time, Lorin Maazel, conducts with his usual competent style and enthusiasm, if not with the greatest degree of subtlety. The performances are capable, to be sure, but nothing actually grips one enough to want to listen to much of it again.

Don Juan (1889), one of the composer's earliest tone poems, is appropriately energetic in its first half, more contemplative in the middle, and acceptably dramatic at the close. Death and Transfiguration (1889) is more serious, of course, so Maazel becomes more grave and subdued. Unfortunately, audience noise intrudes upon the quieter moments, sometimes to the point of annoyance. I might add that we also get to hear applause at the end of each selection, for me the equivalent of a commercial interrupting a movie. Maazel takes the "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Salome (1905) more frenetically than sensually, but it makes for an exciting and arresting interpretation. Finally, in the Rosenkavalier Suite the conductor seems more at home than anywhere else, bringing a sweet charm to the waltzes.

As I say, DG recorded the sound live, and it is rather forward and bright, without a lot of mid-bass warmth or deep bass. The tonal balance places the listener fairly close to the orchestra. While the highs are excellent, there is a touch of harshness to the upper mids. The best thing about the sound is the stage depth, which comes across quite well, very realistically, very lively. Accompanying the disc we find extensive booklet commentaries, most of them coming from the concerts' original program notes.


1 comment:

  1. just visited the link , it surely opened a new demograph on concerts to me!


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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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