Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
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R. Strauss: Le bourgeois gentilhomme Suite & Ariadne auf Naxos, Symphony-suite
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Richard Strauss' Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite was one of his own favorite scores, an absolute jewel of incidental music that combines the composer's romanticism with his love of the Baroque music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. D. Wilson Ochoa has created a new symphonic orchestral suite from Strauss' opulent Ariadne auf Naxos, enabling the orchestra to revel in music of extreme beauty and sensuous luxury, studded with gorgeous instrumental solos and the composer's incomparable blend of poignancy, humor and melodic richness.
CLASSICS TODAY Artistic Quality: 10 / Sound Quality: 10
"I sure hope the folks in Buffalo know what a prize they have in JoAnn Falletta. Her Naxos discography has few peers in terms of imaginative programming and quality of results. The city couldn't ask for a more positive or alluring cultural calling card, and the present release offers a case in point... Here, thanks to Falletta and the folks in Buffalo, in this luminously played and recorded performance, we can savor them afresh. So what are you waiting for? Go for it." --Classics Today.com
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Top Customer Reviews
The nine pieces that make up "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme," dating from 1912, were inspired by the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who happened to have created the music to accompany the very first airing of Molière's famous play in France back in the 17th century.
The genius of Strauss' score is that, while he borrowed some themes from Lully and wrote movements that corresponded to 17th century dance forms (several minuets, a courante and so forth) -- and also used a chamber-sized orchestra to underscore the music's neo-classical flavor -- it is music that sounds very much like it comes from the master's own pen.
The scoring is such that many solo instruments are given the spotlight -- and they really shine in this wonderfully rich performance by members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of JoAnn Falletta. Maestra Falletta is an important advocate for Strauss' music -- this is her second recording of Strauss suites for NAXOS -- and her affinity with the composer 's artistry is on full display here. Each movement is shaped beautifully, with the solo passages gorgeously rendered as well. The concluding "Dinner" movement is so delicious, I was tempted to launch my Open Table app and make my own dining reservations right then and there!
The suite has a prominent part for solo violin, and on this recording the Buffalo Philharmonic players are joined by William Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, whose spirited performance is well-nigh flawless.
Whereas "LBG" is familiar Richard Strauss, the suite from the composer's 1912 opera "Ariadne auf Naxos" is hardly known at all -- and for a very important reason. As good as the opera is (I've seen two productions myself and find the music interesting and engaging throughout), no orchestral suite was ever made until nearly a century later (2010), done by the composer and arranger D. Wilson Ochoa. The symphony-suite (as Ochoa calls it) was premiered by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra -- also a NAXOS recording orchestra -- but the first commercial recording is coming from Buffalo.
And what a wonderful work it is! Ochoa has included all of the major orchestral highlights from the opera, with minimal "tinkering" of the instrumentation except to dub in the vocal lines -- thankfully with idiomatic choices of instruments that align very well with the original voicing. I hadn't heard this opera in well over a decade, but listening to this symphony-suite brought all of Strauss' winsome melodies flooding back.
The score is closer to the "feel" of the music of Strauss that most listeners will recognize -- the waltz movement sounds like it's straight out of "Der Rosenkavalier" -- yet the orchestration is lighter and more transparent. Closer to "LBG," in fact. Likewise here, Falletta and the Buffalo musicians turn in a wonderfully engaging performance -- precision ensemble coupled with passionate beauty in the seven sections of the suite. Each one is its own special gem.
The very last measures of the suite conjured up a memory of mine from nearly a half-century ago that remains fresh to this very day -- when I saw Phyllis Curtain in the role of Ariadne sung so rapturously I thought I was going to lose it right there in the theatre. Maestra Falletta and her musicians come closer to recapturing that magical moment than any other performance I've seen or heard since -- and they do it without the benefit of a human voice!
In sum, this is a very worthy new entrant into the Richard Strauss discography, coupling a fine rendition of "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme" with the premiere of the "Ariadne auf Naxos" symphony-suite. Based on this recording, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the start of a winning journey for the new "Ariadne" score.
And as icing on the cake, NAXOS' affordable "mid-line" price makes this recording well-worth investigating by devotees of Richard Strauss and beyond.