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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whether as a tribute to the passing of a great conductor, or as a stunning set of Strauss Tone Poems, unreservedly recommended., 14 July 2014
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lorin Maazel Conducts Strauss (Audio CD)
I had intended my next review to be of the splendid Bruckner 9th Symphony released by DG “In Memoriam” to the late Claudio Abbado, it being a recording of his last performance. That review will wait for another time, as the sad news of the passing of Lorin Maazel has prompted me to provide a brief encomium in the form of a review of a reissue of some his finest achievements, the tone poems of Richard Strauss. I was and am a fan of the musical colossus that was Maazel, a conductor who arouses passions almost as violent and contrasted as does Karajan.

Certainly in his youth, he could be hot headed, arrogant and downright unpleasant to singers and other musicians with whom he worked, but this was engendered by a fanatical desire to achieve the standards of near perfection he craved, and the absolute self belief with which he was imbued.
He has the dubious distinction of having the ROH orchestra walk out on him during a rehearsal of Luisa Miller, and being dismissed by the Vienna State Opera –but these are incidental nadirs in a career of peak after peak.

No conductor has recorded more complete cycles than Maazel-Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler (3 times), Puccini (ALL the operas), Schubert, Sibelius (twice), Tchaikovsky including the Manfred Symphony, the Stravinsky Ballets and Strauss Tone Poems form a tiny part of his recorded output which began in the Mono era-his first recording was with the BPO in Mono only.

There are some glaring omissions-no Wagner or Strauss operas of which he was a peerless interpreter (there are unofficial recordings available) and it is to be hoped that some of his exalted performances from Salzburg of Elektra and Rosenkavalier will emerge from the ORF archive at some point.
Maazel had his own distinctive views and could argue them well-why he slowed down in Bolero, his tempo judgements in the Rite of Spring etc. His 1980s Mahler set with the VPO has some eccentric interpretations, but all of them are valid and it remains my favourite set by one conductor.
One of the greatest concerts I have ever attended was with Maazel and the VPO-Schubert 4, the 1911 Firebird Suite (a Maazel calling card!) and Ein Heldenleben (with Rainer Kuchl). The encore was the extended Overture of “A Night in Venice”. This was for me a dream concert.

And so to this set… Maazel was seldom if ever better than in Richard Strauss. From his early recordings with the Philharmonia, his early Don Quixote and Tod Und Verklarung for Decca with the VPO (reissued in a bargain box this coming August) and a brilliant “ Tod” on Phase 4, his stunning DG recordings now in glorious remastered sound through to these later BRSO performances- all these performances were of the highest order.

In this box we have his first recordings with the BRSO, the Zarathustra collection disc released in 1995 and the Sinfonia Domestica a year later. These were followed by the remaining 3 discs culminating in the Don Quixote of late 1999. This was the only disc not recorded in Dolby Surround sound, and even in stereo was rather flat sonically by comparison.
All the recordings have been remastered for this release at 24Bits/96kHz and the already spectacular sound is now simply stunning-it leaps out of the speakers and has a much more “solid” impact than before.
The readings display Maazel’s intelligence and insight-these are thoughtful and thought provoking performances, with the Maestro following a familiar practice of revealing inner detail to great effect.
Time after time I am struck by the chamber like delicacy of the writing and playing, and these are no mere sonic spectaculars. The works most transformed by the remastering are the Alpensinfonie and the aforementioned Don Quixote, which now shines with brilliance when it is not glowing with warmth.
There is no better played collection in stunning state of the art sound, for which we thank Producer Wilhelm Meister and his BRSO team, and if Karajan, Kempe and Reiner are indispensible to Straussians, I would suggest that at its modest cost this set is too.

A great tribute to an artist whose loss I feel deeply. I attended his performance of the Adagio from Mahler 10 with Das Lied von der Erde in London in 2011, now to be released posthumously in the
Signum series and it would seem that Der Abschied will be the last recording we will have from him.

Those who have not experienced this great artist’s power and interpretative brilliance could do worse than to snap up this bargain Strauss set, and those seeking great Strauss conducting need look no further. Stars are irrelevant. Stewart Crowe.
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Lorin Maazel Conducts Strauss
Lorin Maazel Conducts Strauss by Lorin Maazel (Audio CD - 2014)
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