Andris Nelsons / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Rosenkavalier-Suite

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This 2009 recording of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben and Rosenkavalier Suite with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra offers a clear image of conductor Andris Nelsons' style of interpretation. This was more difficult to see in his previous recording with the Birmingham musicians, a release featuring Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Hamlet overture, which raced from one extreme to the other, from very loud to very quiet, and from very fast to very slow, in a manner that seemed imposed on the music. Here, Nelsons' fluid but always controlled tempos fit more with the music's mercurial character, and in fact enhance it. In Ein Heldenleben, the hero seems bravely impetuous and his spouse sweetly seductive through Nelsons' adroit tempo modifications, and the Rosenkavalier Suite holds together because of Nelsons' use of tempo to articulate form. Anyone who enjoys Strauss' music is likely to be pleased with these performances. While the City of Birmingham Symphony does its best with these difficult scores, it still sounds like a provincial orchestra with somewhat scrawny strings and sometimes overly blatant brass. Orfeo's digital sound, though lush and warm, is not nearly as clear and detailed as it might be.

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