Karl Böhm

Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Tod und Verklärung

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Dedicated Karl Böhm fans may approach this disc coupling the Austrian conductor's 1950 and 1951 recordings with the RIAS Symphonie-Orchester of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben and Tod und Verklarüng with some trepidation. After all, Böhm recorded these works again only seven months later with the far more technically polished Berliner Philharmoniker for the far more sonically refined Deutsche Grammophon label, and it is at first impossible to imagine that these performances could stand comparison with them. But in fact, these earlier recordings are strongly imagined and cogently dramatic performances that have nearly as much to recommend as the later recordings. Böhm's early interpretations here are not especially different from his later interpretations. In both, he clearly regards these works as among Strauss' tightest and most compelling, and he brings out their tenderness and humanity along with their bombast and virtuosity. More surprisingly, the players of the RIAS Symphonie turn in accomplished readings of these extremely difficult scores that have as much energy and nearly as much refinement as the Berlin's readings. But most surprisingly, the sound here, though taken from radio broadcasts, is amazingly clear and deep with almost as much color, though not as much sense of immediacy as the later recordings. Though first-time listeners should stick with more recent recordings because of their greater sonic impact, those who already know the works and Böhm's take on them may find this disc very interesting.

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