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Customer Review

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Suitably Sterling Celebration, 7 April 2014
This review is from: Richard Strauss - Complete Operas (DG box set) (Audio CD)
Heritage recordings are the name of the game with Deutsche Grammophon's bumper boxed set of the complete Strauss operas. There are some expected classics here. So we get Georg Solti's brilliantly driven Elektra and his excellent Rosenkavalier, with the peerless Régine Crespin as his Marschallin. There's also Karl Böhm's Capriccio and his Daphne, as well as Clemens Krauss conducting Die Liebe der Danae, as he did at the abortive Salzburg premiere in 1944, cancelled due to the declaration of 'total war'.

Some of the very best of recent recordings are also on offer, such as Sinopoli's fabulously unhinged Salome, with Cheryl Studer as the nympho Princess of Judea and echt Straussian Leonie Rysanek as her all-too-encouraging mother. And, of course, there's Solti's Die Frau ohne Schatten, with Julia Varady, Hildegard Behrens, Plácido Domingo, José van Dam and the Vienna Philharmonic in pretty unbeatable form. As a non-operatic bonus you also get Jessye Norman and the Gewandhausorchester under Kurt Masur offering the very best of Strauss's Lieder, including, for me, the finest account of the Four Last Songs.

Not all of Strauss's operas, however, have been recorded by Decca or DG. So in order to complete this box, they've had to turn to EMI as was, now Warner Classics, for the benchmark Sawallisch Intermezzo with Lucia Popp and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the composer and his wife, while Sony provides a perfectly fine if not outstanding Budapest recording of Strauss's first opera Guntram. Perhaps the real boon of the box, however, given its lack of availability elsewhere, is the 1978 Deutschlandradio recording of the second opera Feuersnot, with Gundula Janowitz, John Shirley-Quick and the DSO Berlin under Eric Leinsdorf.

But I can't help feeling that collections such as this, presented by labels for major anniversaries or birthdays, are ultimately a little cheap when they can't provide full librettos for the works represented. Most of these, of course, are offered online, as a sop to any critics like me, but rarities such as Die Liebe der Danae, Feuersnot and Guntram have no supporting text, either in the box or on your computer, should you choose to log on. It's a real chink in the collection's armour and a missed opportunity given this anniversary year's opportunity to encourage listeners towards these intriguing and, in the case of Danae, woefully under-celebrated works. For that, however, I can't give five stars.
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