Since ending his seven-year tenure as the Pittsburgh Symphony's music director in 2004, Mariss Jansons has been chief conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Bavarian Radio Symphony in Munich. With the changes the recording industry has undergone during the past decade, it is now common for major orchestras to issue recordings under their own proprietary labels, and this all-Strauss program is part of a series of live performances culled from 60 years of Bavarian Radio archives. The Bavarian Radio's most recent conductors have been Mr. Jansons, and before him, Lorin Maazel. The result of that training is a superb collective instrument competitive with any on the world scene.
The present program shows Mr. Jansons' strengths, his congenial way with big romantic scores that made him a favorite during his time in Pittsburgh. The 25-minute orchestral suite from the opera, "Der Rosenkavalier" (a 2006 performance) benefits from the conductor's preference for plush sonorities and the players' ability to produce a sweet, singing tone at any volume. The tone poem "Till Eulenspiegel" (recorded in 2009) shows the conductor's sense of humor and his astute ear for instrumental color.
Most challenging on this disc are Strauss's Four Last Songs (also 2009), with the rising German soprano Anja Harteros as soloist. Ms. Harteros has an opulent sound that can soar in long, high phrases. She and Mr. Jansons paint the music in broad, sweeping strokes, the voice itself rather than individual words and phrases claiming most of the listener's attention. It's not a subtly nuanced interpretation -- for that go to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Renee Fleming -- but the total effect is a warm, all-enveloping listening experience.
-- Robert Croan
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