Richard Strauss by Lucerne Festival Orchestra & Riccardo Chailly
There is silence. We wait … and wait … and then, out of this heavy hush, the trumpet speaks those famous notes. Riccardo Chailly brings his understanding of opera drama to these epically dramatic pieces. In milking the quiet moments, Strauss’s true genius comes to the fore.
There is something truly luscious about Strauss’s orchestrations that makes me want to hug someone every time I hear one of his tone poems. They require huge orchestras and yet everyone has an important role to play. You wouldn’t know, listening to this particular recording, that the musicians have had only ten or so days of rehearsals before they performed these massive works.
Claudio Abbado reworked the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2000, from their ad hoc beginnings in 1938, to become a handpicked collection of musicians with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra as the central component. All I can say is that it works. Their philosophy of acting as a chamber music group (which involves much more intensive listening and reacting, as opposed to relying on the conductor), works brilliantly in Strauss’s works. There are many moments in his orchestra pieces that call for this style of performing in order to truly make each moment shine. And they really do shine.