Strauss - A Cappella / Equilbey, Accentus

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Accentus and Laurence Equilbey return to their 13th recording with Naïve, this time climbing the musical Everest of a cappella choral music with an ensemble of no less than 62 singers including the Latvian Radio Choir. The result: an album of incredible music that was just waiting to be discovered!



R. STRAUSS Deutsche Motette, op. 62. Traumlicht, op. 123/2. Zwei Gesänge, op. 34 Laurence Equilbey, cond; Jane Archibald (sop); Dagmar Pecková (alt); Eric Soklossa (ten); Robert Gleadow (bs); Latvian RCh; Accentus NAÏVE 5194 (47:30)

Richard Strauss, though better known as a composer of operas and tone poems, wrote significantly in other genres as well. One of those mediums that fascinated him throughout his entire life was the a cappella choral work. The earliest pieces recorded here—the Zwei Gesänge —come from 1897, the year of Ein Heldenleben ; the latest piece— Traumlicht , the second of the Drei Männerchöre— from 1935–36, those years in which Strauss was occupied with the operas Friedenstag and Daphne.

The most extensive work here, and perhaps the most difficult to perform, is the Deutsche Motette . Written in 1913, between his work on the operas Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten , it is a one-movement tone poem for voices. There are moments of incredible difficulty, requiring the basses to perform notes more than two octaves below middle C for passages at a time. The sopranos, on the other hand, are asked to sing passages requiring high D?s, more than two octaves above middle C. The singers here are up to the challenge. The notes are for the most part clean, with minor exceptions here and there in the very extreme registers—one can only imagine the singers for whom Strauss was originally composing when glancing over the score and marveling at the difficulties inherent in it. The polyphony is also immaculately audible; the voices in the fugue ring out with every entry. This is no small feat for a piece that contains at its highest number 23 individual parts! While at times this is a wonder to hear, there are other places where one wishes for slightly more blend to the sound, much like the Danish National Radio Choir under Stefan Parkman offers (on Chandos 9223). The pacing is beautifully done and the tempos carefully chosen—all in all, a magnificent performance.

The earlier Zwei Gesänge are also given very fine performances. The ensemble work here is much better in terms of blend. In the beginning of Der Abend (the first of the two Gesänge ) the singers are very good at overlapping and matching, creating a seamless wall of sound as they transfer from one section to the next. Each entry proceeds smoothly, through the odd chromatic wandering, until the very end when the ensemble creates an almost organ-like sonority. The two remaining pieces are equally thrilling and well done.

Though the performances are first-rate, there is one slight reservation: The recording offers less than 50 minutes of music. At this price, one would have hoped for some of Strauss’s other equally compelling a cappella choral works to have been recorded as well— Die Göttin im Putzzimmer and An den Baum Daphne would have filled out this disc nicely. Even with these reservations I would wholeheartedly recommend these performances. If you don’t know this side of Strauss, do yourself a favor; go grab a copy and take a listen!

FANFARE: Scott Noriega

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: V5194

  • UPC: 822186051948

  • Label: Naïve

  • Composer: Richard Strauss

  • Conductor: Laurence Equilbey

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Accentus, Latvian Radio Choir

  • Performer: Dagmar Pecková, Eric Soklossa, Jane Archibald, Robert Gleadow