Why is Richard Strauss deemed by many the greatest of 20th-century opera composers? Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned fan, this disc, with its scenes of often overwhelming beauty, illustrates some of the most salient reasons. Here you'll immediately encounter Strauss's command of a sumptuous musical vocabulary and unerring instinct for creating characters of psychological depth, not to mention librettos that stand out for their literary excellence. The composer's famous love of the female voice in particular--his wife had been a highly accomplished singer--inspired him to create his most memorable characters. As performed by Ren？e Fleming, Susan Graham, and Barbara Bonney, the Strauss heroines featured here acquire a life and human dimension reminiscent of Mozart's genius for operatic characterization.
Fleming brings a characteristically sensuous intelligence to her Marschallin, composing a portrait at once strong-willed and eloquently vulnerable in her monologue from Act？I of Rosenkavalier. The extremely broad tempo taken for the Trio allows you to glory in the emotional polyphony of these three distinctive voices as they weave together to melting, incandescent effect. Fleming continues at the top of her form with her Arabella and Countess, inflecting the long, soaring lines of Straussian melody with warmly shaded vocal coloring and an acute sensitivity to textual nuances. While clearly focusing the spotlight on these superb voices, Eschenbach massages a lushly detailed blend (if at times overromanticized and creamier than Strauss intended) from the Vienna Philharmonic. In the two excerpts from Capriccio, in which Strauss sums up a lifetime of writing for the stage, the result is breathtakingly luminous and the disc's most enrapturing sequence. On the evidence of her Countess here--which she has yet to sing on the stage--this seems destined to become one of the great Fleming roles. --Thomas May
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Da geht er hin
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Ach, du bist wieder da!
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Ich hab ihn nicht einmal gek？？t
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Marie Theres! - Hab mirs gelobt
Der Rosenkavalier, opera, Op. 59 (TrV 227): Ist ein Traum
Arabella, opera, Op. 79 (TrV 263): Ich danke, Fr？ulein
Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): Moonlight music / Closing scene
Capriccio, opera, Op. 85 (TrV 279): Wo ist mein Bruder