ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
RICHARD STRAUSS - Also Sprach Zarathustra


RICHARD STRAUSS - Also Sprach Zarathustra - Don Juan - Till Eulenspiegel - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Andris Nelsons (Conductor) - 4011790878126 - Released: June 2014 - Orfeo C878141A

Shame on the recording engineers at Orfeo and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for trying to destroy our loudspeakers. Believe me when I say that I've heard many great recordings of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, and more often than not have found its brilliant and towering introduction unsatisfying and unworthy of the philosophical concept behind the music. This new recording, on the other hand, is the first one to really give my sound system a serious workout. Stanley Kubrick, who enabled the name 'Richard Strauss' to become socially pervasive by using this intro in his famous film '2001: A Space Odyssey', knew that this music meant to portray nature in its cosmic proportions, and it sounds to me as if that is what conductor Andris Nelsons was shooting for in this performance.

Unfortunately, for many people, it stops there. Their attention span depletes following the impressive intro and they never give this work's extra 30 minutes or so a concentrated effort. What they fail to understand is that its deep within the core of this symphonic poem that the impulse behind the opening sequence resides. Listening to the various bursts of joy and the deep sorrows along the way, and most particularly its ambiguous, cryptic conclusion, reinforces the idea of power behind the introduction. And again in this recording, Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra players weave through the work's various episodes with a fine tooth comb, and bring out its many thematic subtleties and nuances, as well as flaunting its flagrant brilliance.

Highly recommended! Just make sure you check for smoke emanating from your speakers while playing the introduction.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2014