Kristjan Järvi

Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen

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Daniel Schnyder composed two solemn works to complement Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen on a program commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. Krisis for orchestra and Psalm for orchestra and soprano are used as a frame for Metamorphosen, with the first piece introducing it and the second serving as a kind of epilogue. However, Schnyder's somber but stylistically flexible music bears little connection to Strauss, and the chromatic counterpoint in Krisis more often brings to mind the passion music of J.S. Bach. Psalm is even more uncertain in effect and expressive import, oddly veering between Berg and Sondheim. The setting of the text, which was drawn from several biblical psalms from the Peshitta, is intended to provide a hopeful conclusion, though its major-chord ending feels forced. If this 2012 album by Kristjan Järvi and the NDR Radio Philharmonic is considered as a whole, Schnyder's pieces come off as earnest essays by a talented post-modern composer still struggling to find his voice, while Metamorphosen stands as a monument by a great artist that needed nothing to amplify its expression. The playing by the orchestra is solid and seems adequately rehearsed, even though it is less than brilliant, and soprano Susanna Levonen gives a passionate performance, despite the dense orchestration that leaves little room for her part and threatens at times to drown her out. The recording in the Athanasius Kirche, Hanover, is generally clear and detailed, though a drier acoustic would have served Schnyder's music better.

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