Composer: Richard Strauss
Performer: Guy Braunstein
Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Size: 752 MB
Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
01. I. Der Held
02. II. Des Helden Widersacher
03. III. Des Helden Gefährtin
04. IV. Des Helden Walstatt
05. V. Des Helden Friedenswerke
06. VI. Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Op. 60
07. Ouvertüre zum 1.Aufzug
09. Der Fechtmeister
10. Auftritt un Tanz der Schneider
11. Das Menuett des Lully
13. Auftritt der Cléonte
14. Vorspiel zum 2.Aufzug
15. Das Diner
Ein Heldenlebenwas always a favourite party-piece of Herbert von Karajan, so the challenge to his successor, Simon Rattle, is all the more formidable.
It says much for Rattle’s achievement in Berlin that the result in this live recording offers the keenest rivalry to the finest versions already in the catalogue. The heroic opening section already establishes Rattle’s approach as a degree more flexible, more warmly expressive than Karajan’s. Karajan is certainly warm, but he generally keeps his expressiveness within steady speeds, where Rattle is a degree freer, with rhythms subtly pointed.
Typically, he treats the violinist, Guy Braunstein, as a genuine soloist, encouraging him to play with the sort of expressive freedom one expects in a concerto, while the equally brilliant Michel Schwalbe for Karajan tends to stay within the set tempo even in the most elaborate sections of the long solo representing the composer’s wife. Braunstein is the more individual, and so are the various wind soloists in the piece, including those in the second section representing the composer’s enemies, the critics.
What remains a constant is the opulence of the Berlin Philharmonic sound. The 1974 EMI recording of the Karajan version remains impressive for its time but the modern digital recording is richer still, starting with the most resonant E flat in the bass at the very start and covering a formidable dynamic range, bringing out the subtlety of Rattle’s control and the refinement of the orchestra’s playing. The fine Kempe version dates from rather earlier than Karajan’s and, quite apart from the less wide-ranging recording, his is a less forceful, rather more relaxed reading than either Rattle’s or Karajan’s. In his overall timing Rattle takes a couple of minutes longer than either, with the extra breadth due at least in part to the expressive freedom encouraged in a live performance, something that clearly adds to the magnetism of the finished recording.
The fill-up is a generous one, bringing the overall timing of the disc to an exceptional 82 minutes. The engineers, though working in the Philharmonie as in Heldenleben, have rightly balanced the microphones to give a much more intimate result with the chamber ensemble of Lebourgeois gentilhomme. This time Rattle’s performance is more relaxed than Kempe’s, with speeds rather broader, making for a performance that delightfully captures the light-heartedness of this music, with delectable rhythmic pointing in the 18th-century pastiche.