David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra's seven-disc set of Strauss' orchestral works covers all the greatest hits plus the usually B-sides along with a couple of bonus tracks and odd-ball choices thrown in. The first big hits are here, the libidinous Don Juan through megalomaniacal Also Sprach Zarathustra, plus the later hits, the massive Eine Alpensinfonie, and tell-all Sinfonia Domestica, along with the very early Aus Italien with its unintentional swipe from Denza's Funiculì Funiculà and the very late Metamorphosen, with its wholly intentional homage to Beethoven's Marcia funebre. As a bonus, the producers have added Strauss' four final hits, the aptly named Vier Letze Lieder.
These performances are not, however, the original performances by the Strauss conductors you have come to trust over the years -- Strauss, Kraus, Böhm, and Reiner et al. -- but cover versions. Zinman, a conductor with a refined technique and impeccable taste, sounds out of his element with Strauss' vulgarities: the transfiguration of his Tod und Verklärung is kitschy, the jokes in his Till Eulenspiegel are tired and blue, his "Hero's Helper" in Ein Heldenleben is a silly slut, and his Don Juan sounds like a frat boy bragging. The Tonhalle, an orchestra with a warm wind section and more than capable string and brass sections, is seriously out-of-their depth here. In the lighter works, the charming Oboe Concerto and the wonderful woodwind Serenade, they sound delightful; in the heavier works, the monumental Eine Alpensinfonie and especially the bombastic Festliches Präludium, they sound dumpy.
If you're looking for a more complete and far more consistently successful set of Strauss' orchestral greatest hits, try Rudolf Kempe's splendid set with the sumptuous Staatskapelle Dresden.
If you're looking to fill out that set and don't mind doubling up, Zinman's set is worth considering. Arte Nova's sound is atmospheric in the lighter works and murky in the heavier works.
|Aus Italien, symphonic fantasy, Op. 16 (TrV 147)|
|1. Auf der Campagna: Andante||David Zinman||9:56|
|2. Im Roms Ruinen: Allegro con brio||David Zinman||12:39|
|3. Am Strande von Sorrent: Andantino||David Zinman||12:57|
|4. Neapolitanisches Volksleben: Allegro molto||David Zinman||9:02|
|Macbeth, tone poem for orchestra, Op. 23 (TrV 163)||David Zinman||19:50|