Strauss a cappella

Laurence Equilbey

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Strauss a cappella Review

by James Leonard

Once in a very great while, an incredibly brave choral group will take on the challenge of Richard Strauss' excruciatingly difficult Deutsche Motette, Op. 62, for a cappella chorus. Because of the work's staggering demands -- its tone is ecstatic, its language chromatic, and its duration 20 minutes -- only the best choruses record it, and most, amazingly enough, succeed in delivering impressive performances. So it is here on this Naïve Classique disc Strauss A Cappella, with the Latvian Radio Choir led by Laurence Equilbey. Coupled with Traumlicht, Op. 123/2, and Zwei Gesänge, Op. 34, the Deutsche Motette get a sure, steady, and ultimately imposing performance. The Latvian chorus stays in tune from start to finish, and never shows signs of weakening despite the work's taxing vocal writing. Even more incredibly, it maintains a tone of inspired rapture throughout, and the final pages are truly blissful. This disc may not be for everyone, not even every Strauss fan -- this much ecstatic, chromatic a cappella choral music can wear a listener out -- but for the right listener, this disc will be warmly welcomed.

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