Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op 30; Aus Italien, Op 16

Reviewed on Wed 17 Dec, 2014

Richard Strauss's youthful, endearingly garrulous symphonic fantasy Aus Italien needs persuasive handling if it not to overstay its welcome – which is just what it gets here from François-Xavier Roth and his highly responsive SWR band. The Frenchman masterminds a refreshingly lithe, yet agreeably affectionate reading, investing the gorgeous opening movement ('In the Campagna') and scarcely less evocative third movement ('On the Beach at Sorrento') with plenty lyrical ardour and nostalgic glow, while locating lots of twinkling fun and local colour in the high jinks of the finale (which has a ball with the Neapolitan song 'Funiculì, funiculà'). Roth's account of Also sprach Zarathustra is finer still, thrillingly alive and spontaneous-sounding, with real urgency and conviction about it, studded with imaginative, ear-pricking detail, and marvellously well played to boot. Rest assured, as digital Zarathustras go, this new performance is up there with the very best. Admirable sound – and generous measure, too! What are you waiting for?
–Andrew Achenbach