Energetic works from early and late Richard Strauss

This release features a selection of works written at the very beginning, and at the very end of Richard Strauss’ career. In a way, it’s not surprising at the consistency of style in these works. In those later years, Strauss became increasingly nostalgic for those earlier times.

A good example is the Duett-Concertino for clarinet and bassoon with string orchestra. Though composed in 1947, it sounds like a work from the 1900s. But the Duett-Concertino is not a work Strauss could have written in his youth. The elements blend in a more refined manner. And the work, while beautiful, expresses itself in a mature, restrained fashion.

Strauss’ Romance in E-flat major for clarinet and orchestra was written in his youth. Here the clarinet part has a Mozartian flavor to it. And the gestures are bigger, the contrasts more dynamic than the Duett-Concertino.

Clarinetist Michael Collins performs both works with a smooth, mellow tone. The duet passages with Julie Price are especially appealing.

The Burleske for piano and orchestra is another youthful work. Strauss, at 24, was also deep in the study of Mozart piano concertos. The Burleske in D minor shows some of that influence. It’s almost bursting with energy and enthusiasm.

Strauss’s showy piano part does resemble Mozart in his use of scales and motifs. Michael Michale’s hands sound like they’re flying across the keyboard. He dashes off the runs and skips with swagger and abandon. It thrilling, and fun.

The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor 17 was completed in 1881. Strauss was eighteen. The work is almost over the top in its unabashedly Romantic expression. The melodies are gorgeous, wrapped in rich, resonant harmonies.

Soloist Tasmine Little is outstanding. Strauss seems to include just about every technical trick — double stops, glissandi on multiple strings, wide leaps, etc. Little performs them in a manner that incorporates them into the melodic flow of the music. Her violin’s clear, singing tone helps keep this youthful work grounded — at least enough to be taken seriously.

The works may not be that familiar — but the character certainly is. If you like Strauss at all, you should seek out this recording.

Richard Strauss: Burleske; Romance; Duett-Concertino; Violin Concerto
Tasmin Little, violin; Michael Michale, piano; Julie Price, bassoon
BBC Symphony Orchestra; Michael Collins, conductor, clarinet
Chandos CHAN 20034

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