Richard Strauss Recordings

  Strauss is one of a very few Composers who had equal success in both Opera and Symphonic realm.  For the purpose of this discussion I am confining my discussion to non Opera, so essentially: Zarathustra, Till, Don Juan, Heldenleben, Eine Alpinesymphony, Death and Transfiguration, Rosenkavalier and Capriccio extracts, Metamophasen, the early works (Macbeth, Aus Italian) and the one that I really dislike—Symphonica Domestica.

  Sine these are such great Orchestral showcases they have oft been recorded and many as large collections.

  I’ve been listening through the Kempe set with the Dresden Staatkapelle recently (the latest reissue on Warner) from the early seventies and primarily comparing it with two sets -the Reiner/Chicago set, dating from the dawn of the stereo era (Zarathustra recorded-in stereo-in to 1954!) from it’s last Sony reissue, and the Karajan/Berlin Phil set from the early digital era.

  The first observation here, this being an Audiophile Site, is the incredible quality of the first two sets.  At no point, even with the Reiner recordings made before I was born, did I feel that I was listening to anything less than superb reproduction.  It’s amazing how much digital replay has advanced, and how much information is in these old tapes.  By contrast, the worse recording was the Karajan, as DG hadn’t figured out the new technology, and Von K. no doubt had a hand in twiddling the knobs at the mix. It’s over bright and pace any DG recording of the last third of the last century, lacking in bass and presence.

  The Reiner and Kempe are superb collections.  It’s a pity that Reiner never recorded the Alpine Symphony, and occasionally with Kempe one gets the feeling of being hemmed in by the bar lines, but those are relatively rare instances and the DSK of that vintage probably still had players who had been conducted by the Composer, who favored that Orchestra in his later years.

  I have several other later Strauss recordings but probably it will be just Kempe and Reiner for me going forward


As a sometimes listener of classical music, and one with no formal or even informal music training, for me to listen to a classical piece more than once, it has to speak to me in some, usually in a way that I cannot describe precisely. When asked why I might like a new piece of pop music, I’m the guy who says, “It’s cool.”  I was at a record store in the early 80s and a knowledgeable salesman recommended the “Vier letzte Lieder” with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. I’ll never forget the first time I heard them. I have not listened to any other recordings of this, but Schwarzkopf sounds perfect, so in control, powerful, but not over the top. And who does not yearn for knowledgeable record store salesmen?

Interesting in that in this particular crowd, except for myself and @jasonbourne71  there doesn’t seem to be any love for Strauss outside of the Four Last Songs.  At the very least I would have thought it would have appealed to the audiophile aspect.  Oh well

Not sure how or why you arrived at that conclusion. As I see it, there’s been lots of love for Strauss expressed here. Some reservations expressed in some cases? Sure, including by yourself. Unconditional love? I save that for my children 😊. If you are looking for specific examples of works that I love without reservation, one that immediately comes to mind is “Capriccio”. Everything positive that has been stated about Strauss, but a relatively short (one act) work….for an opera, so it doesn’t overwhelm with the amount of amazing beauty.  It also has one of the great basset horn (a member of the clarinet family) parts in the literature.

Btw, on the subject of familial love. There is plenty of love IN many of Strauss’ works. The listener will notice how he featured the French horn in many of his works. His father was a horn player and Richard wrote many wonderful horn parts for the horn so that his father (a working musician) would have plenty of great solos to play.