Neeme Järvi

Strauss: Aus Italien; Metamorphosen

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The third volume of Neeme Järvi's survey of Richard Strauss' orchestral tone poems completes the series with two works: the early travelogue Aus Italien and the late contrapuntal masterpiece Metamorphosen. Practically bookending Strauss' long career, these works could not be more different in scope, style, and expression, and their pairing here dramatically contrasts the composer's youthful optimism and the deep discouragement of his final years. Aus Italien is a sprawling symphonic fantasy depicting Strauss' travels in Italy in 1886; its genial but bland tone and effusive tableaux mark it as an immature work, superficially entertaining but not the equal of the great tone poems to follow. Metamorphosen, composed for 23 solo strings, is a powerful essay, unsettled in its chromaticism and poignant in its evocation of a rich musical past that Strauss mourned in the aftermath of World War II. Compiled in 2000, the recordings date from 1988 and 1989, and are scrupulously remastered for this 2004 edition for Chandos Classics. Järvi and the Scottish National Orchestra are excellent in both works, though their playing is decidedly more impassioned in Metamorphosen. Completists will no doubt snap up this CD, but others may find that the shallow Aus Italien considerably reduces the disc's value.

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