This album is included in the following sets:
This set contains the following albums:
Clemens Krauss conducts some of the finest of his friend Richard Strauss
"Classics of the gramophone, unsurpassed in their natural, idiomatic Viennese character" - Fanfare
The recordings of Also sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel were both drawn from Decca's 1970 Eclipse reissue, whereas Don Juan was transferred from their Ace of Clubs disc. Both presented issues that have only been resolvable with the latest remastering technology.
The Eclipse LP combines a superior pressing with some really awful fake stereo processing, which serves to present a particularly nasty, boxy sound. By negating the fake stereo (and removing any phase errors it introduced) and then re-equalising in XR processing, a much fuller, clearer and more extended sound picture emerged, demonstrating what marvellous performances had been captured in 1950.
Meanwhile Don Juan, whilst in better sound on the earlier mono pressing, showed most clearly the fact that these recording had been made with 78rpm discs in mind - the central section (equivalent to two 78rpm sides) was pitched significantly sharper than the two outlying sides. This has been corrected with Capstan pitch stabilisation processing. Elsewhere I've attempted to improve poor side joins, but one remains unfortunately obvious in Zarathustra.
Finally, extensive frequency readings both of the music and the electrical mains hum indicate that Krauss was using a tuning of A=449Hz, and this has been restored to the final masters presented here.
Recorded 12-13 June, 1950
First issued as Decca 78s KX283554-58 and Decca LP LXT2548 in 1950/51
Recorded 16 June, 1950
First issued as Decca 78s KX28364-67 and Decca LP LXT2549 in 1950/51
Transfers from Decca ACL 16 (Don Juan) and ECS 572 (Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel)
Recording location: Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna
Recording producer: Victor Olof
Recording Engineer: Cyril Windemank
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Clemens Krauss conductor
XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, September-October 2011
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Clemens Krauss with Richard Strauss
Total duration: 63:41
The orchestra had these works in its blood
These two discs showcase the conductor who was, more than any other, closely identified with Richard Strauss’s music during his lifetime. The first is a selection from the extensive series he recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic for Decca in the early 1950s. These recordings have previously appeared on CD, on four Testament discs, remastered from the original tapes. For the present release, Andrew Rose has drawn on LP incarnations in Decca’s Ace of Clubs line (Don Juan) and Eclipse series from the 1970s (Also sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel), the latter associated with the now thoroughly discredited technique of fake stereo processing, which, as Rose readily admits, was a sonic disaster. His restoration involved “negating the fake stereo (and removing any phase errors it introduced) and then re-equalizing in XR processing.” While the results thankfully undo the egregious damage inflicted by the Eclipse fake stereo, the question is how they compare with the Testament discs. Another difference is the pitch; according to Rose, “extensive frequency readings both of the music and the electrical mains hum indicate that Krauss was using a tuning of A = 449Hz, and this has been restored to the final masters.” This is fascinating, though I don’t entirely understand his reasoning and wish he’d elaborated a little more on it. It does make for a markedly sharper, brighter sound.
Questions of pitch aside, I find the new transfers a mixed success. In Also sprach Zarathustra and Till Eulenspiegel, quieter passages come across as recessed, grainy, and lacking presence; the recordings then suddenly come to life in the loud passages. In comparison, the Testament transfers consistently score higher on solidity, presence, and sense of hall acoustic. Don Juan, taken from Ace of Clubs, fares somewhat better, a pleasingly mellow sonic blend, but again lacking the impact (though also taming the early Decca “fizzy” quality) of the Testament.
As for the performances, they need little comment from me. They are classics of the gramophone, unsurpassed in their natural, idiomatic Viennese character. The orchestra had these works in its blood—virtuoso writing is dispatched with finesse and an almost insolent sense of poise and equanimity, even at the fastest tempos; ensemble is taut and trenchantly articulate; tuttis have a golden, saturated, but always transparent sound; wind solos possess a striking “speaking” quality. Fine as other conductors are in this music, with the same orchestra (including Strauss himself in 1944 [Preiser], and Decca’s later stereo series with Karajan in 1959–60), Krauss remains interpretively in a class of his own. No one brings out the heady waltz in Also sprach Zarathustra, the scherzando swagger in Don Juan, or the picaresque wit in Till Eulenspiegel quite like this.
My recommendation for these performances would remain the Testament discs. But these may be hard to find now, in which case the new Pristine will do very nicely.
No such reservations about the second disc, which gathers three recordings made in Bamberg for Bavarian Radio in 1953–54. Although not intended for commercial release, they were published in the 1960s by Philips, whose LPs have been used for the present remastering. The sound is excellent for its time and radio origin. Metamorphosen came out a few years back on Preiser, but Pristine’s transfer is preferable, slightly noisier but more open. The performance is paced very naturally, less febrile than some, clearly articulated with a full-throated vocal quality that is very involving. The string playing is totally committed, if not always as polished as some bigger-name orchestras.
The other two performances are new to me. The Rosenkavalier waltzes are dispatched with an easy authority and a memorably fruity, earthy response from the Bavarian players. The Divertimento is a real rarity, the second and lesser-known of Strauss’s two orchestral suites based on Couperin’s music. It is a substantial work of about 36 minutes, in eight movements, and drawing on 17 keyboard pieces. Strauss clearly relished the music’s harmonic and contrapuntal originality, as well as its luxuriance of embellishment. His orchestration (for chamber orchestra, including harpsichord!) is subtle and inventive, in wide-ranging reconceptions of the originals involving thickening of Couperin’s spare keyboard textures, harmonic filling out, and addition of contrapuntal lines (often with a teasing three-against-two rhythmic play). Although the Bamberg orchestra is not always flawless, Krauss’s direction is ideally light and stylish. An indispensable supplement to his Decca recordings.
This article originally appeared in Issue 35:4 (Mar/Apr 2012) of Fanfare Magazine.