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Cat. No. CHSA 5120 Price: £11.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHSA 5120 - Strauss: Josephslegende
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Available From: 20 May 2013
Strauss: Josephslegende
Josephslegende by Richard Strauss is based on the Biblical tale of the adventures of Joseph in Egypt after he has been sold into slavery by his brothers. Strauss started the work in June 1912. However, in a letter of 11 September, he confided that ‘Joseph isn’t progressing as quickly as I expected. The chaste Joseph himself isn’t at all up my street, and if a thing bores me I find it difficult to set it to music. This God-seeker Joseph – he’s going to be a hell of an effort!’ Quite characteristic for Strauss, he showed far more interest in the sexual elements of the story, in which Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph and ends up committing suicide. The ballet was premiered at the Paris Opéra in May 1914, where it was presented as part of a triple bill alongside danced interpretations of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade and Schumann’s Papillons.
 
Strauss’s opera Feuersnot (Trial by Fire) has been interpreted as a parody of Richard Wagner’s idea of ‘redemption through love’. The opera takes place during the Midsummer Festival, where lovers swear their fidelity by leaping through the flames of a bonfire. In the story, the main character, Kunrad, is attracted to Diemut, a young girl who rejects his advances, with dire consequences. In retaliation, he persuades a sorcerer to extinguish all the fires in the town, stating that the only way to restore them is via ‘the body of a virgin in heat’. The opera concludes with the Love Scene, recorded here, in which Diemut sacrifices her virginity to Kunrad in order to release the spell on the fires. At the time of its premiere in 1901, the strong sexual theme was quite disturbing to its audiences.
 
Also on this album is the Festmarsch, Op. 1, his first published orchestral work, which Strauss wrote at the tender age of twelve. Five years later he approached the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel who initially refused to take it on. Only when the work’s dedicatee, Strauss’s uncle Georg Pschorr, indicated that he would pay for the printing costs himself did they relent. Strauss’s father launched the piece at a concert given by his amateur orchestra, Wilde Gung’l, in March 1881.
 
The works are performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Neeme Järvi, who in 2012 celebrated his thirty-year recording career with Chandos Records.
 
Reviews

 "...The music is relatively conservative, though with its large orchestra - 115 players, including a Heckelphone and contrabass clarinet - it has no end of interesting color, and a  spectacular Hollywood finale made for a great sound system... This is the only version with fillers. They are also worthwhile ... You can sit back, bask in the sonic orgy, and treasure the days when they really knoew how to handle wretched excess."
Don O’Connor - American Record Guide - November/December 2013

"Any lover of Strauss’s orchestral music will certainly enjoy making its acquaintance in this welcome new release."
 
Rob Maynard - MusicWeb-International.com - 12 August 2013

                     Performance ****       Recording ***
 
David Nice - BBC Music magazine - September 2013

“... fabulous performance here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with Neeme Jarvi of music that is sensationally scored for a monster orchestra...”

Michael Tumelty – The Herald Scotland – 14 July 2013     

“... The RSNO under Neeme Järvi perform it with aplomb and with plenty of colour derived from the massive palette of orchestration  ...”
Geoffrey Norris – Gramophone magazine – August 2013

"... He [Jarvi] offers a considered, low-key interpretation, ultra-refined in detail, scrupulously played ..." ***
Tim Ashley - The Guardian - 5 July 2013

               Album of the Week
“... this is mature Strauss, brilliantly orchestrated in his glittering Frau ohne Schatten vein. Jarvi and the RSNO make the strongest possible case for a neglected work, and their makeweights, the love scen from Feursnot (Fire Famine) and a piece of bombastic juvenilia by the precocious 12-year composer, Festmarsch (“dedicated to his dear Uncle, Mr Georg Pschorr”), are rare collectibles for avid Straussians.”
 
Hugh Canning – The Sunday Times – 16 June 2013   

 

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