Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op 30; Ein Heldenleben, Op 40

Reviewed on Mon 24 Jun, 2019

I can't recall registering quite so much newly-minted detail during the battle music, while the intricate textures and numerous quotations from other Strauss offerings in 'The Hero's works of peace' are woven with exceptional skill and perception.

Music-making of beguiling sheen and giddy coordination can be found on this blockbuster of a Strauss coupling from Oslo. And if Vasily Petrenko's undeniably accomplished, often thoughtful conception of Also sprach Zarathustra is not always as enviably concentrated as one might wish (there are also a sprinkling of mannered touches along the journey), his satisfyingly cogent view of Ein Heldenleben (into which we are plunged after barely a second of silence!) brings no such qualms. After an exhilaratingly urgent, wonderfully lithe introduction (with a real spring to its step), the composer's critics snap with barbed relish, before we're treated to a memorably supple portrait of the composer's wife, Pauline. Leader Elise Båtnes (who studied with Dorothy DeLay, Ruggiero Ricci and Arve Tellefsen) covers herself in glory here, as indeed does every member of the hugely impressive Oslo PO – testament to some painstaking preparation throughout. Elsewhere, I can't recall registering quite so much newly-minted detail during the battle music, while the intricate textures and numerous quotations from other Strauss offerings in 'The Hero's works of peace' are woven with exceptional skill and perception. Any minor niggles over Zarathustra notwithstanding (and why on earth is each work allotted only a single track?), this sumptuously engineered release deserves wide currency.
–Andrew Achenbach