May 4, 1986, Royal Festival Hall – a hot ticket occasion, no doubt, but off of my radar of remembrance, so whether the complete evening is here, I know not, although at seventy-seven minutes there is little room on the disc for much else, for the first items are five Lieder, which seems a curious way to start a concert, even if the opening number is the ecstatic ‘Cäcilie’ (from Strauss’s Opus 20), which finds Jessye Norman immediately soaring and outreaching, with the LPO and Klaus Tennstedt (principal conductor at the time) also in no need of a warm up. The four songs that follow are equally compelling, singer, conductor and orchestra as-one as to how to present these settings, whether intimate, ethereal or demonstrative, and there are some lovely instrumental solos, not least from leader David Nolan. The booklet includes German texts and English translations.
In the music for Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Tennstedt captures well the bustle and charm of the score, one though that is too reliant on pastiche – any longueurs (the final movement, ‘The Dinner’, indulges a couple of courses too many) and bombast (the close of ‘Entry of Cléonte’ is a fortissimo too far) are entirely Strauss’s fault (too fluent to know when to stop), yet the performance is classy and played with style and much character. By the way, in ‘The Fencing Master’, should some of the notes in the piano part seem wrong, they are in fact right.
The selections from Salome (the LPO now at its fullest) return us to Norman, via an edgily seductive ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, built to a frenzy, and into the opera’s Closing Scene, urgently dispatched, a theatre of suspense conjured for the ears, the knot tightening on the named character, lived and breathing her last by the dramatic soprano, intensely and luminously enveloped by the orchestra and Tennstedt’s intense conducting, embracing expressionism (enough to suggest Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire), heightened emotions and crushing power.
The sound, originally a BBC Radio 3 broadcast, presumably now from the “facilitating” Laurie Watt’s collection, is generally very good – vivid, well-balanced and impactful – with slightly over-processed discoloration at the beginning of the ‘Cléonte’ track (twelve), although not as mangled as some of the audiophile-poor issues that informed the earliest batches of LPO releases. It’s good to have this Strauss concert available. LPO – 0122.
Repertoire details on following link