JoAnn Falletta

Richard Strauss: Josephs-Legende; Rosenkavalier; Die Frau ohne Schatten (Orchestral Suites)

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Naxos' Richard Strauss: Josephs-Legende; Rosenkavalier features JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic in three suites Strauss cobbled together in his last years from earlier stage works. While this contains the authentic suite Strauss compiled from Der Rosenkavalier in 1945, far more commonly heard and recorded is a suite assembled by conductor Artur Rodzinski in the 1930s that is rather more effective than this one from the composer. It doesn't linger quite so long in the middle and cuts to the chase in regard to the waltzes. Strauss compiled his suite to Die Frau ohne Schatten because he despaired that the opera -- one of his favorites -- would never get a fair hearing owing to its poor initial reception in 1919. Strauss could never have guessed that Die Frau ohne Schatten would become so popular as it has in the years since his death; however, as a result, the orchestral suite he extracted from it remains little known. Neither the ballet nor the corresponding suite to Josephs-Legende has caught on; ballet just simply wasn't Strauss' strong suit, given that the fluid, developmentally driven arc of his music doesn't lend itself well to the footfalls required by choreography. Nevertheless, of the three pieces offered on Naxos' Richard Strauss: Josephs-Legende; Rosenkavalier, the Symphonic Fragment from Josephs-Legende fares the best.

Falletta's handling of Strauss tends toward the sheen, glassy surfaces of the early sections of the Alpine Symphony and Buffalo responds to this aesthetic exactly; it's a beautiful sound and the orchestra is marvelously in tune, but the music seems oddly restrained when it comes to anything requiring weight and power. You can hear the crescendos, but you don't feel anything, and that's a key element in post-romantic music; when it surges, the listener needs to surge with it. Here, it is more like an already bright sky getting brighter. On the other hand, these works are seldom programmed with one another; usually one only encounters them as add-ons to other things or included in big boxed sets of Strauss' works. If one has an interest in the orchestral potpourris that Strauss extracted from his major stage works, then Naxos' Richard Strauss: Josephs-Legende; Rosenkavalier isn't a bad choice, it's just not a very enthralling one.

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