For this 2016 release from PentaTone, Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony present two of Richard Strauss' epic tone poems, the semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life), and the Shakespearean study Macbeth. While Ein Heldenleben has been a fixture of the concert repertoire alongside Don Juan, Tod und Verklärung, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Also sprach Zarathustra, and Don Quixote, Macbeth has always lagged behind in popularity, partly for being the first and least conceptually developed of the tone poems, and partly for its vague depiction of the characters' emotions, instead of a detailed retelling of the play. One could also mention the darkness of the scoring and the paucity of soaring themes and lush harmonies found in Strauss' other works, so Macbeth might seem to be a lost cause. Yet Orozco-Estrada and the orchestra deliver a compelling reading that emphasizes its grim power and volatility, and the music comes across with utter transparency and considerable expressive depth, if not with Strauss' full-blown personality. Even so, Ein Heldenleben will likely impress listeners more because of its dynamic counterpoint and sweeping grandeur, and the audiophile recording captures the orchestra's vibrant sonorities with great fidelity.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson