Richard Strauss: Oboe Concerto; Horn Concerto No 1; Der Bürger als Edelmann Suite. Copehagen Phil / Toshiyuki Kamioka. © 2023 Orchid Music Limited


Colourful Orchestration and Melodic Nature

GEOFF PEARCE listens to three works by Richard Strauss

'... if you are fond of Richard Strauss's music, you will not be disappointed ...'


I have been looking forward to reviewing this recording, as all are works loved by and familiar to me, and the interesting combination of the pieces on this disc attracted me.

The oboe concerto was written and first performed in 1946 and has been a favourite among oboists for many years. It is a demanding work for the soloist, and one has to possess with considerable stamina, especially in the first movement, to perform it, and technically there are challenges too, but it is a lovely piece to play, and is one of the last works that Richard Strauss wrote. The booklet describes how the work came to be, and who were the first performers. The concerto is in three contrasting sections, but these are designed to play without a break.

The oboist on this recording, Andreas Fosdal, is known to me, and he is the principal oboist of the Copenhagen Philharmonic. He produces a lyrical singing tone. I find the speed he takes the first section admirable.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Allegro moderato (Oboe Concerto)
(ORC100261 track 1, 3:34-4:22) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

There are many recordings of this work, and some take it, at least in my opinion, either too fast or too slow. Mr Fosdal hits a sweet spot. His technical proficiency makes this work sound easy. (Believe me, it is not.) He is attentive to the markings on the score and to the subtle changes in tempi that are necessary to make this piece work. Another thing I love about his playing is that his intonation is very secure, his direction on the long melodic lines is very natural, and this is one of the loveliest and most compelling recordings of this work. This is borne out over the two remaining sections. The orchestral balance is right where it should be, and the orchestral forces are small, very often supporting the soloist, and seldom bursts forth. It is not one of those concertos that pits the soloist against the orchestra. The end result is, I think the nicest recording of this work I have heard.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Andante (Oboe Concerto)
(ORC100261 track 2, 6:40-7:29) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

Strauss wrote two horn concertos, and the first one, opus 11, is recorded here. It is a youthful work and was written with his father Franz Strauss, who was a celebrated horn player, in mind. Strauss started the work as a seventeen-year-old and it was finally published a couple of years later. It is a marvellous work in three movements. The influence of Schumann, I felt, was quite pronounced, especially in the first movement.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Allegro (Horn Concerto No 1)
(ORC100261 track 4, 2:25-3:12) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

I had a lovely recording of Dennis Brain playing the two concertos and also the Hindemith.

This current recording is with Jakob Keiding, principal horn with the Copenhagen Philharmonic. He is a very fine player, whose technique is beyond question, intonation very sure, and has a warm tone that he varies as to the requirements of the music. I have heard many recordings of this work but this one will be one of those I keep coming back to.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Allegro (Horn Concerto No 1)
(ORC100261 track 6, 3:40-4:39) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

The final work on the disc is Der Bürger als Edelmann Suite, also know as 'Le bourgeois gentilhomme'. This was drawn from the Molière play and satirises the middle and upper classes social climbing. Strauss's usual librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, condensed the original play from five acts to two, and the plan was to have this work followed by the opera Ariadne auf Naxos.

The suite is in the form of a brief overture followed by ten movements, many of them dances. It is quite neoclassical in nature, and predates what was later known as the neclassical style by composers such as Stravinsky and Prokofiev. It is a charming little set of pieces and shows Strauss's good humour and geniality (although contemporaries often paint a different picture of him).

Listen — Richard Strauss: Der Fechtmeister (Der Bürger als Edelmann Suite)
(ORC100261 track 9, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

This is often performed and recorded, and is popular with the music going public for its colourful orchestration and melodic nature. This is music to enjoy for its own sake, and does not pose enigmas to ponder over. The orchestral forces and conductor produce a recording that reveals this enjoyable suite.

Listen — Richard Strauss: Courante (Der Bürger als Edelmann Suite)
(ORC100261 track 12, 1:22-2:12) ℗ 2023 Orchid Music Limited :

This is a very fine disc, and if you are fond of Richard Strauss's music, you will not be disappointed with it, the performances of all involved or the recording quality. It is well supported by the detailed and insightful booklet enclosed.

Copyright © 18 December 2023 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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