François-Xavier Roth / SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra

Strauss: Tondichtungen 5 - Metamorphosen, Symphonia domestica

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For the fifth volume in a series of Richard Strauss' tone poems, François-Xavier Roth and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg present the sentimental and gently humorous essay on the composer's home life, Symphonia domestica, Op. 53 (1903), and his elegiac reflection for 23 solo strings on the destruction of World War II, Metamorphosen (1945). Roth has often performed with his period-instruments ensemble Les Siècles, but here he conducts an orchestra of post-Romantic scale playing modern instruments, and there is no obvious attempt at historically informed revisionism. On the contrary, Roth provides a straightforward reading of Symphonia domestica that, as a kind of sequel to Ein Heldenleben, sorts with Strauss' rather inflated, heroic style -- sweeping gestures, soaring melodies, elaborate counterpoint, and full-blooded orchestration. The relative restraint of Metamorphosen puts it in stark contrast, and it bears a closer formal resemblance to the sublime Tod und Verklärung, another meditation on mortality. The string ensemble, drawn from the SWR Sinfonieorchester, plays with intensity and incisive clarity, allowing every strand of the counterpoint to be heard independently, yet at the same time expressing powerful emotions through some of Strauss' most poignant harmonies. Highly recommended.

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