Richard Strauss: The Happy Workshop - 1945; Serenade Op 7 - 1881. Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble; George Vosburgh, conductor. © 2022 Reference Recordings

CD Spotlight

Many Fine Moments

GEOFF PEARCE listens to Richard Strauss played by the Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble

'... a fine disc of works which are not recorded so often ...'


Richard Strauss, over his long career, wrote four works for wind ensemble: two early ones, and two in the Indian summer of his life. This new recording features the first and last ones, and the ensemble is a fine student ensemble directed by George Vosburgh who has long had a fondness for these pieces. Whilst it is not often that one hears these works recorded or performed, there are a few good recordings out there, and I first heard them all when I was a young lad, but never had the chance to perform any of them.

This recording is well performed, and the intonation, balance and ensemble are admirable, but just occasionally, there are slight imperfections in the overlapping rhythms, but you have to listen very intently to notice, and they do not detract from the mood of the music as a whole. These pieces demand a lot from the individual players and the whole ensemble.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Allegro con brio (The Happy Workshop)
(track 1, 0:00-0:41) ℗ 2022 Carnegie Mellon University :

The Happy Workshop was written after a recovery from an illness, and follows on from a previous work From an Invalid's Workshop written a couple of years earlier. It is a joyous happy work, and Strauss said at the time of writing these that he was looking back to the wind music of Mozart.

The work contains four movements, and I have to say I enjoyed the quieter moments better. To a large extent this had a lot to do with the recording itself. The acoustics are quite live, and when the music got busier and louder, I found it a bit too much, and detail was obscured.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Andantino, sehr gemächlich (The Happy Workshop)
(track 2, 2:35-3:29) ℗ 2022 Carnegie Mellon University :

There are, however, many fine moments and the joyfulness and enthusiasm that this ensemble delivers largely makes up for things about this recording that I do not enjoy as much.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Menuet, etwas lebhaft (The Happy Workshop)
(track 3, 0:00-0:47) ℗ 2022 Carnegie Mellon University :

The Serenade, Op 7 was written when Strauss had just turned seventeen and is in one movement, about ten minutes in length. This sunny calm work reminds me of Schumann, Mendelssohn and Spohr in spirit, and I am much happier with the overall end result with the recording quality of this work and I think the piece suits the smaller ensemble better.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Serenade, Op 7
(track 5, 6:26-7:23) ℗ 2022 Carnegie Mellon University :

On balance, this is a fine disc of works which are not recorded so often, but there are other recordings which I much prefer. I would suggest listening to the Netherlands Wind Ensemble (conducted by Edo de Waart in 1971) - the first recording of these works I had heard. This recording was reissued on CD sometime in the 1990s on the Philips label. I believe it is still available. In my mind, this account cannot be beaten colouristically, or for recording balance and style. There is also a fine recording by the London Winds directed by Michael Collins.

Copyright © 24 February 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia









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