Don Quixote – Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, Op.35
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28
Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Lawrence Power (viola) [Don Quixote]
Recorded 6-9 February 2012 in Probensaal des Gürzenich-Orchesters, Cologne
CD No: HYPERION CDA67960 Duration: 55 minutes Reviewed: March 2013
Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote and Till Eulenspiegel – Markus Stenz conducts Gürzenich-Orchester Köln with Alban Gerhardt & Lawrence Power [Hyperion]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Hyperion’s venturing into standard orchestral repertoire is bearing ripe fruit; witness the excellent Bruckner 7 conducted by Donald Runnicles. Now from the venerable Gürzenich-Orchester Köln comes an impressive coupling of two Richard Strauss favourites under Markus Stenz, something of a cutting-edge contemporary-music expert and here proving a perceptive Straussian who is alive to the small print as to the big gesture. The ‘Introduction’ is sensitively handled and poetically paints pictures; detail is clean and expressively turned; the scene is flourishingly set through painstaking preparation yet the final result lives, breathes and suggests.
The uncluttered acoustic provides sound that is vivid if dry and certainly tangible but never coarse or oppressive, but there is one caveat concerning this production, that Alban Gerhardt and Lawrence Power are a little too forwardly balanced – this is not a concerto for either of their instruments and some orchestral intricacies lose out to the closeness of the solo protagonists.
Power gives us a very human Sancho Panza and Gerhardt is a ruminative Don, and any perceived lack of inwardness and pathos from the cellist, where it matters most, at the Don’s death, is down to his advance positioning; one knows that he is being eloquently responsive. Power and Gerhardt are personable and entwine effectively, and Stenz and his fine orchestra conjure much that is engrossing.
Following Cervantes’s idealistic hero in musical form, and after a goodly amount of silence, Till Eulenspiegel receives a vital and rambunctious account, less witty and affectionate than some, but with a sense of purpose and (sometimes garish) description that is given a reading of confident and roguish sweep.