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Thomas Søndergård & RSNO - Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Der Rosenkavalier Suite - Gramophone

These two new releases see two conductors tackle Ein Heldenleben at different stages of their relationships with orchestras. Vasily Petrenko’s comes some six years into his tenure with the Oslo Philharmonic (his current contract runs until next season) and follows well-received Scriabin and Prokofiev with them (also on LAWO). On Linn, Thomas Søndergård is kicking off a Strauss series with his new band, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The Petrenko release exudes confidence and swagger, while with Søndergård we have something altogether more measured. There’s focus and tautness to the Dane’s approach; and, though there’s no shortage of incisiveness and character to the wind, his brass can seem well-behaved. The result is a Heldenleben that is more in its element in the intimate passages: ‘The Hero’s Works of Peace’ is especially fine, and distinguished by some outstanding solo playing.

Maya Iwabuchi brings quiet, considered virtuosity to ‘The Hero’s Companion’ and contributes (along with the fine principal horn) to an account of the work’s final moments that is especially touching. Similar virtues are in evidence in the Rosenkavalier Suite. It’s not perhaps as rollicking or fun as some but the quieter moments are again beautifully done: there’s a lovely tenderness in the Presentation of the Rose and the initial appearance of the waltz lilts and swings seductively. Both scores are captured in detailed sound by Linn’s engineers.

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Gramophone
01 August 2019