Richard Strauss: Orchestralworks - The Strauss Pro

Album cover art for upc 028948620401
Label: DG
Catalog: 4862040
Format: CD

"The partnership between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhaus Orchestra is a matter close to my heart. I am extremely grateful that both orchestras, each with its own unique tradition and sound culture, are so committed to a mutual exchange. This connection, which can now be called a friendship, is singular in the world of music. With the complementary recording and performance of the orchestral works of Richard Strauss, a dream comes true for me." (Andris Nelsons) Indeed, the alliance initiated by Andris Nelsons, which has closely linked his orchestras in Boston and Leipzig since 2018, is without precedent in the international orchestral landscape. It ranges from regular exchanges of musicians over several months to joint commissions and coordinated programming - such as an annual Leipzig Week in Boston and a Boston Week in Leipzig - to mutual or jointly planned guest concerts and touring projects. The basis for the transatlantic exchange is an astonishingly relational past, which above all shaped the first decades of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), founded in 1881. The Second Gewandhaus, destroyed in World War II, was the inspiration for the construction of Boston Symphony Hall with its phenomenal acoustics. Several of the BSO's music directors studied at the Leipzig Conservatory, were members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra or - like Arthur Nikisch and today Andris Nelsons - presided over both orchestras. The partnership brings these lines of connection back together in the 21st century: as an innovative revival of shared pasts A milestone for the alliance is the preparation and recording of the orchestral works of Richard Strauss - a collaboratively conceived showcase of works that includes concertante works and orchestral opera excerpts in addition to tone poems. "The music of Strauss offers a wealth of moods and timbres, is full of emotionality, orchestral brilliance and often humorous," says Andris Nelsons. "Both orchestras can bring their own unique qualities to bear here, as they each have a unique tradition and fantastic sound culture. Their special qualities are rooted in the different trajectories of their long and rich histories. The transparency of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, for example, can be traced to Bach and Mendelssohn, while in the BSO it results strongly from French influences." This universal Strauss undertaking, which illuminates the composer from two historically distinct perspectives, kicked off with a guest performance of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Boston in November 2019, when the two orchestras performed the Festliche Präludium in a unified sound apparatus. This only joint recording of the cycle (with organist Olivier Latry) forms the centerpiece of the extraordinary project. Richard Strauss, not only a leading composer but also a conductor of his era, maintained personal contacts with both orchestras. Although his music was not central to the historical development of the orchestras, the orchestras in Boston and Leipzig have repeatedly set standards with Strauss performances and recordings in the past Strauss stood at the podium of the Boston orchestra, which acquired a French-Russian flavor in the 20th century and enriched the orchestral repertoire with numerous premieres of the Classical Modern, only once: in a Pension Fund Concert on April 19, 1904, as part of his first extended tour of North America. In addition to works by Beethoven and Wagner, he also conducted his own compositions in Boston: Don Juan, Don Quixote and the orchestral "Love Scene" from the opera Feuersnot. He reported enthusiastically back home: "The Boston orchestra is wonderful, sound, technique of a perfection such as I have hardly ever encountered." As early as 1888, Wilhelm Gericke, the BSO's second music director, had presented a Strauss work in Boston for the first time, Aus Italien. Later, it was Pierre Monteux and finally Erich Leinsdorf and Seiji Ozawa who gave special importance to the Strauss oeuvre in their Boston programs and also included the operas - in extracts or in their entirety. During the long tenure of Seiji Ozawa (1973-2002), famous recordings of individual tone poems (Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben) as well as a complete recording of the opera Elektra (all for Philips Classics) were made in this way Strauss' path to the podium of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, founded in 1781, proved somewhat more difficult. With its house gods Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Bruckner, the Gewandhaus Orchestra already possessed a singular concert tradition. Thus Strauss initially worked primarily with rival orchestras in Leipzig before the doors of the Gewandhaus opened to him. Nevertheless, the Strauss history of the Gewandhaus Orchestra is also remarkable: in 1887, the 23-year-old made his debut on the Gewandhaus podium with his F minor symphony; shortly thereafter, he found an ardent advocate in Gewandhaus Kapellmeister Arthur Nikisch, who regularly put his works on the program, appointed Strauss as the orchestra's first regular guest conductor in 1907, and in his penultimate season, 1920 / 21, performed all nine of Strauss's tone poems in a cycle. At Leipzig's New Theater, the Gewandhaus Orchestra often performed many of Strauss's opera scores immediately after the Dresden premieres, and from 1915 Strauss personally conducted performances here of Salome, Elektra, or - on his last visit to Leipzig in 1934 - Arabella. There is also a Strauss premiere in the annals of Gewandhaus history: in 1932, Gewandhauskapellmeister Bruno Walter launched the orchestral suite from the ballet Schlagobers in the Second Gewandhaus. A year later he was forced to leave Leipzig because of his Jewish origins, and in the same year Strauss became president of the Nazi Reichsmusikkammer - a step that remains a stain on his biography to this day. In all, Strauss was on the podium of the Gewandhaus Orchestra for five concerts and eight opera performances. The cyclical performance of Strauss' orchestral works by Arthur Nikisch (who set surprisingly few of the composer's works in Boston) was later followed by Gewandhauskapellmeisters Kurt Masur and Riccardo Chailly with comparable shows of works. Masur, in particular, made several Strauss reference recordings during his distinguished and politically turbulent tenure (1970-1996), most notably the Four Last Songs and a complete recording of Ariadne auf Naxos, both with Jessye Norman (Philips Classics). These historical references also played a role in the distribution of the repertoire between the two orchestras. According to Andris Nelsons, "The recording of Don Quixote with the Boston musicians and the incomparable Yo-Yo Ma is a reverence to Strauss's own performance of the work in Boston, as is the 'Love Scene' from the opera Feuersnot. In turn, Strauss premiered Symphonia Domestica in New York in 1904 as part of his U.S. tour. In the Leipzig recordings, 'Salome's Dance' and the Rosenkavalier Suite refer to the operatic tradition of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Burleske, for which Yuja Wang is an ideal cast, to the youthful exuberance of the young Strauss, who had yet to find his feet in Leipzig, and the Schlagoberswalzer to the Leipzig premiere of the orchestral suite." The late Metamorphosen was also recorded with the strings of the Gewandhaus Orchestra - the mourning expressed in it over the demise of an entire cultural epoch, which for Strauss manifested itself at the end of the Second World War in the destruction of many important cultural sites, also included the second Gewandhaus building. An early recording of the Gewandhaus Orchestra had still taken place here in 1940, that of the Festliches Prelude under the direction of Gewandhauskapellmeister Hermann Abendroth - and thus of that work with which, some eighty years later and after the fall of the Iron Curtain, which in the meantime separated Boston and Leipzig beyond reach, the starting signal was given for this unique alliance project.

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