Daniil Trifonov / Mariss Jansons / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra; Burleske

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A seasoned interpreter of Richard Strauss’ late-Romantic orchestral music, Mariss Jansons recorded most of the symphonic poems for BR Klassik between 2008 and 2017. For this 2020 release, he saved one of the finest scores for last in the series and one early piece that is essentially Strauss' only piano concerto. Also sprach Zarathustra (1896) and the Burleske for piano and orchestra in D minor (1886) aren’t exactly complementary works, since they are separated by a decade in the composer’s career, yet they show the great strides he made from his youthful admiration of Brahms to his rise to mastery and his growing confidence in handling a massive modern orchestra. Jansons’ pairing shows something of Strauss’ conflict between the Classical models he was initially taught and the influence of Wagner’s music, which eventually had the strongest impact on his work. That, and the eponymous book by Friedrich Nietzsche, made Also sprach Zarathustra enormously popular and something of a revelation, both in intellectual and musical circles, and represented the “new music,” incorporating extreme chromaticism, increased dissonance, and even bitonality. Guest pianist Daniil Trifonov joins Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Burleske, and they give it a first-rate virtuoso treatment, but this disc is primarily the orchestra’s showcase, and no piece shows off this orchestra’s brilliance more effectively than Also sprach Zarathustra.

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