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Richard Strauss: Intermezzo, Opus 72, TrV 246
Simone Schneider (Christine), Markus Eiche (Robert Storch), Martina Welschenbach (Anna), Martin Homrich (Baron Lummer), Michael Dries (Notary), Maria Bulgakova (Notary’s Wife), Brenden Gunnell (Stroh), Mark Kugel (Commissioner), Peter Schöne (Lawyer), Günter Missenhardt (Opera Singer), Sophie Mitterhuber (Resi), Brigitte Fassbaender (Spoken Role), Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Ulf Schirmer (Conductor)
Live recording: Werdenfelssaal (June 7-8, 2011) – 95’ 37
cpo #777 901-2 – Libretto in German and English

Personal journeys inside lives of composers are often clandestinely shrouded within an author’s music repartee, and for Richard Strauss, the translation is conspicuous. Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, aghast at the proposed severity of Strauss’ marital venting, kindly bowed out of the process despite the composer’s unabashed insistence. Equally courting critic-author Hermann Bahr, eventually the latter persuaded Strauss to handle the entire project due to such personal intimacies that are riddled with strong conflict. Thus, Richard Strauss took full responsibility as maître maestro for his comédie bourgeois that indubitably teems with forward inertia and strength.

The magnet is Simone Schneider’s Christine who tenures buttery expression and mercurial temperament and one who likely captures the true essence of Strauss’ nagging, paranoid wife, Pauline. Ulf Schirmer’s delivery is impeccable and wildly vibrant. Strauss lines are luscious and broad, but peppered with sudden sparky turns while equipollently the incorporation of recitativo secco and recitativo accompagnato adds exhilarating texture to the swiftly moving score. Markus Eiche has a resilient baritone reach; the elicitations as Robert Storch are pronounced and realistically combative when up against his accusatory wife.

The remaining cast is extremely adroit in its interpretation of the Straussian “snippet autobiography.” Of particular importance are the lovely interludes which pervade the two act opera and bring with it visions of Der Rosenkavalier; there are even reminisces to Carl Nielsen’s Maskarade (1906) popping with capricious time signature changes and dashing, unexpected change. Legendary Brigitte Fassbaender even shows up on stage in her “cameo role” (spoken role.)

Despite being a comedy on the surface, there is a profound degree of seriousness within this subject. Intermezzo is a most apt title for this piece since the Strauss work rests between compositions that are anchored by Hofmannsthal’s libretto foundations. It’s no wonder that Intermezzo simply shines. The live recording has excellent sound qualities. Any one desiring addition to their collection of Richard Strauss works would do well by looking into this cpo release.

Christie Grimstad




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