Riccardo Chailly conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Richard Strauss – Zarathustra, Tod, Till, Salome [Decca]

4 of 5 stars
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30
Tod und Verklärung, Op.24
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28
Salome, Op.54 – Dance of the Seven Veils

Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly

Recorded 11 & 12 August 2017 in KKL Luzern, Switzerland

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: September 2019
CD No: DECCA 483 3080
Duration: 85 minutes

A glorious Sunrise cues Riccardo Chailly’s account of Zarathustra – a perfectly calibrated crescendo from low rumbles via gleaming trumpets and powerful timpani strokes to a demonstrative (and in-tune) organ cap.

From there Richard Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired symphonic poem boasts atmosphere, beauty (glowing strings) and thrills, with impetus when required, although Chailly’s basic conception is broad, the emphasis being on lyrical intensity and scientific contemplation (and not just in the instrumental depths of ‘Von der Wissenschaft’). Just occasionally some passages are a little staid, with the work’s potential longueurs not disguised – the recording, however detailed, tending to be a little claustrophobic – yet the Viennese dance rhythms of ‘Das Tanzlied’ have a nice lilt, although the ultimate climax that is ‘Nachtwanderlied’ is somewhat laboriously arrived at, and I would have liked a less-bright bell; conversely the highs and lows of the concluding bars are alternately chilling and ominous.

Swings and roundabouts then, something less apparent in Death and Transfiguration, given a suitably last-rites and railing account, the remembrance of things past and the fevered rage of having to leave the World (timpani understated though) … for who knows where, but the transcendence of the music, and this performance – long-gestated in its poignant/uplifting release – suggests a better place to come.

The trump card is a rollicking account of Till Eulenspiegel, Chailly relishing its cartoon-strip aspects, investing a nudge and a wink, a nip and tuck, as required for a vivid retelling of a lovable rogue’s Merry Pranks (he fails to watch out for the hangman … but this is once upon a time after all, Till will live again!). Finally, to complete this generous Strauss programme, Salome strips off, veil by veil, for ten minutes of sleazy seduction.

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