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R. Strauss: Metamorphosen, etc / Nash Ensemble

Album Summary

>Strauss, Richard : Metamorphosen for 23 solo Strings, AV 142
>Strauss, Richard : Quartet for Piano and Strings in C minor, Op. 13 (TrV 137)
>Strauss, Richard : Capriccio, Op.85
Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This is The Nash Ensemble at its very best-fullblooded performances of red-meat chamber music. Metamorphosen can in some ways be regarded as Richard Strauss's heart-rending reaction against the wartime destruction of German culture and heritage. Completed in the spring of 1945, the work is at once angry, poignant and intensely beautiful. The version performed here is derived from Strauss's original score for seven stringed instruments (he later expanded it to twenty-three), and incorporates the revisions to the closing bars made in subsequent versions. The Piano Quartet is an early work, composed some sixty years before the valedictory Metamorphosen. In it, one contemporary critic noted, Strauss 'shows himself a better Brahmsian than Brahms'. Strauss was clearly proud of this early composition-he performed in the premiere-and we should not dismiss it purely on the grounds of its coming from the pen of a twenty-one year old. Capriccio also predates Metamorphosen, but only by four years. This last of Strauss's ground-breaking operas opens with an extended movement for string sextet-this is no arrangement-as the composer character Flamand competes with his poet rival for the hand of the delectable Madeleine. The result is of such searingly intense emotion that Strauss successfully granted the 1942 premiere to a hated Nazi official in return for safe passage out of Germany for his son and part-Jewish wife.

'Reducing the string size of Strauss's Metamorphosen from 23 to the seven of the composer's short score ... might seem to be going light on the tragic force of this great wartime elegy. Not so in the hands of The Nash Ensemble. If anything Strauss's most private moments of grief have even more eloquence ... the recap almost breaks the heart in its restored purity of expression [Prelude to Capriccio] ... truthful recording does full justice to the warmth, poise and integration of these marvellous performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The music's autumnal soulfulness suits the Nash Ensemble's house style to near-perfection ... the same classy artistry shines through their performances of the string sextet prelude to Strauss's last opera Capriccio, and of the much earlier Piano Quartet - Brahms and Schumann-influenced and very attractive' (Classic FM Magazine)

'This captivating disc from the Nash Ensemble features music from both ends of Richard Strauss's long and productive life. The Piano Quartet in C minor ... is a remarkable piece ... The Nash players certainly give it their all and make one wonder why it's not better known. More familiar is Strauss's great late lament Metamorphosen, but it is played here in a realisation of his original draft for seven strings rather than the 23 he eventually settled upon. With a performance as searing as this, it makes just as much of a mark as the better-established "orchestral" version - the textures sound just as full, yet the intertwining lines emerge with greater focus and the whole is underlined by the tonal solidity of Duncan McTier's double bass. An equally seductive account of the string sextet Prelude to Capriccio completes the programme' (The Daily Telegraph)

'[Piano Quartet] An enjoyable piece ... expansively dramatic and genuinely expressive with that touch of spontaneity which signals Strauss at his best' (Gramophone)

'The Nash's performance, angry and grieving, is faultless [Metamorphosen] ... The real treat here is the Piano Quartet, dating from 1885, when Strauss, then aged 21, still considered himself a Brahmsian ... the best of it anticipates the chamber-oriented scoring of such later works as Ariadne auf Naxos and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The over-dominant piano part - Strauss wrote it as a showpiece for himself - is played with tremendous panache by Ian Brown' (The Guardian)

'I am lost in admiration at The Nash Ensemble's achievement here in capturing the music's noble intensity with an emotional flexibility and glowing textural fluidity denied even Karajan's sensational Berlin players at their most refulgent. Captured in immaculately balanced, velvety sound by producer Andrew Keener and engineer David Hinitt, this is a performance that gets right to the heart of this glorious score, tantalizingly retaining its chamber-scale purity even when Strauss is at his most super-heated. There are magic moments galore along the way, but to hear Marianne Thorsen and her fabulous team soar aloft with the pulsating phrases the briefly resolve at 16'48" is an unforgettable experience ... there's also an exemplary booklet note by Strauss scholar Michael Kennedy. Highly recommended' (International Record Review)

'There's certainly every reason to hear this glorious and desperately sorrowful lament for a lost civilisation ... in this version, especially when it's as beautifully played as by the Nash Ensemble members represented here' (Manchester Evening News)

'This is one of the most delicious disacs to come out of the Hyperion stable ... [Metamorphosen] Each line shines anew here, each crushing harmony showing Strauss pishing at the barriers of tonality with effervescent gusto. This performance is breathtaking, with The Nash Ensemble understanding direction and phrasing, interlocking Strauss's ideas seamlessly' (HMV Choice)

'The Nash members are really under the skin of Strauss's music and bring out desperation and beauty in equal measure ... with recorded sound that puts the listener in the middle of the action without intimidation - how well the piano is balanced with the string trio - and scholarly notes from Michael Kennedy, this is a quite superb issue' (Classicalsource.net)

'Das Klavierquartett sed 21-jährigen Strauss ist ein dankbareres Stück für das Nash Ensemble, das ungeheuer viel Energie in dieses Stück einbringt, in dem der Komponist für sich selber einen besonders brillanten Klavierpart schrieb, den Ian Brown hoch virtuos spielt' (Pizzicato)



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Works Details

>Strauss, Richard : Metamorphosen for 23 solo Strings, AV 142
  • Ensemble: Nash Ensemble
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (04/12/2006-04/14/2006)
  • Running Time: 25 min. 54 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1945

>Strauss, Richard : Quartet for Piano and Strings in C minor, Op. 13 (TrV 137)
  • Ensemble: Nash Ensemble
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (04/12/2006-04/14/2006)
  • Running Time: 39 min. 50 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1883-1894

>Strauss, Richard : Capriccio, Op.85
  • Ensemble: Nash Ensemble
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (04/12/2006-04/14/2006)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 4 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1943