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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Quixote (1897)
Friedemann Pardall (cello), Mathias Feger (viola)
Duisburger Philharmoniker/Jonathan Darlington
rec. 18 February 2009, Philharmonie, Duisburg
ACOUSENCE ACO22012 [42:18]


 
Jonathan Darlington was music director of the Duisburg Philharmonic until 2011 and together they have made a series of fine recordings, mainly of German romantic repertoire. This fine performance of Richard Strauss’s tone poem, Don Quixote, marks a notable addition to their discography.
 
Don Quixote is a complex and extensive composition with a most imaginative structural plan and deployment of forces. The formal title – Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character – is at once imaginative and true to the nature of the original source. As well as deploying variation form, Strauss elected to have two solo instruments: a cello for Don Quixote and a viola for his faithful servant, Sancho Panza. Beyond this, moreover, the score abounds in remarkable insights through its orchestration.
 
In the role of our hero Don Quixote the cellist Friedemann Pardall is an excellent soloist, and he is ably abetted by his Sancho Panza, the violist Mathias Feger. While their contributions make a suitably strong impression, they are not brought as far forward in the sound-perspective as in some other performances, such as that featuring the magnificent Mstislav Rostropovich with the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan (Olympia MKM238). This is no bad thing, to be sure, since concerto performances don’t have larger-than-life soloists in the concert hall. In this regard Raphael Wallfisch with Neeme Järvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (CHAN10206X) seem closer to the balance achieved in the Duisburg performance, while they too offer a sensitive and rewarding interpretation.
 
However, comparison with other performances – across the whole of the catalogue – reveals an obvious drawback as far as the Duisburg performance is concerned. Rival recordings give much better value for money, since they include substantial couplings, usually of other symphonic poems by Strauss. For example, the new Acousence version gives just forty minutes’ music (Don Quixote) whereas Järvi on Chandos includes the work in good sound as part of a well-filled two CD set. For less money than the new version, the Sinfonia Domestica, Till Eulenspiegel, Macbeth and Also sprach Zarathustra can be acquired, all in good versions with fine sound.

(The Label have taken on-board our comments and have decided to market this as a mid-price disc to reflect the playing time. Check the price a retailer wants to charge you. - Len Mullenger)
 
Therefore whatever the artistic merits of the admittedly splendid performance led by Darlington and his Duisburg forces, the advice is clear.
 
This excellent performance, recorded in a warmly sympathetic acoustic, enters a competitive market place and offers poor value for money in comparison with its rivals.

Terry Barfoot
 


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