Richard Strauss, STRAUSS, R: Also Sprach Zarathustra / Salome’s Dance

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A giddy rendition of one of orchestral music’s favorite showpieces.

Strauss 'career as the most important German opera composer of his time took some radical turns. His first successful operas, Salome and Elektra, were decadent and lurid sex-and-violence tales based on the Bible (via Oscar Wilde) and Greek myth. From there, always relishing startling the public, Strauss veered 180 degrees to Der Rosenkavalier, a silvery, perfumed comedy set in Mozart's time. The Marschallin, an older woman (35! gasp!) who philosophically accepts her young lover's crush on an even younger woman, is a role most every diva yearns to make her own, culminating in a lush, bittersweet three-soprano finale to die for. Strauss paints this upper-class milieu by weaving elegant, opulent waltzes through his score; these have become favorite orchestral show-off pieces, as you'll hear in Zdenek Kosler's richly ebullient reading. (Also on this disc, there's a bit of Salome, her over-the-top "Dance of the Seven Veils.")