Rudolf Kempe / SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

Rudolf Kempe conducts Bartók & Strauss

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Even though these 1961 concert performances of Béla Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin Suite and Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra are properly described as historical recordings, as well as rarities in Rudolf Kempe's catalog, they're actually much better than many recordings of the same vintage, and they deserve a special place among this conductor's legendary performances. The Miraculous Mandarin is Bartók's most aggressive and brilliantly orchestrated score, and Kempe draws out a shockingly vivid performance from the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra that communicates the piece's disturbing mix of seduction and grotesque passion. The highly dramatic reading of Also sprach Zarathustra is even more of a treat, offering the boldest and lushest sounds of the post-Romantic orchestra in sharp and clear details, digitally remastered to give the original masters an ideal presentation on CD. Thanks to Hänssler's high production values, this disc is a genuine treasure from the past, and the precision of Kempe's conducting, the intensity of the orchestra's playing, and the clarity of the reproduction all come together to make this album much more than a curio from the past. Highly recommended.

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