Mariss Jansons / Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

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Unless one has an incurable addiction to Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, an inordinate admiration for Mariss Jansons, or a fanatical devotion to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, it is difficult to get excited about this SACD. Granted, the work is one of the most colorful and entertaining of Strauss' symphonic poems, and Jansons and the RCO do it justice in their live 2004 performance, which is faithfully reproduced in the DSD mastering and rendered in 5.0 multichannel surround sound. But the CD lasts for a mere 45 minutes, and obviously has room to spare for another piece. Is this performance of Heldenleben so extraordinary that it deserves to be featured by itself, without filler to distract? No, the interpretation and playing are fine, but not revelatory or spectacular by any means; and for all the enhancements of super audio recording, it is still a live performance: the rather quiet, well-behaved audience is nonetheless audible in places, and their presence seems to have required microphone placement at a distance from the orchestra -- not optimal conditions for audiophile recording. Furthermore, this disc is only compatible with SACD systems, so it is unreadable on older CD players. Last of all, the cost of this skimpy disc is exorbitant at the full price. Caveat emptor.

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