A Tepid Ein Heldenleben From Nagano

Review by: Victor Carr Jr


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

The two undisputedly great recordings of Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben are Reiner’s and Ormandy’s. Both feature a combination of exciting, persuasive conducting and stunningly virtuoso orchestral playing that has never been matched by any subsequent recording. Although, there have been some very good ones in the intervening decades: Karajan, Solti, Kempe, and Pesek come to mind.
But there’s a large pile of also-ran readings, to which this new release from Kent Nagano must be added.

Nagano’s performance does have going for it the Gothenburg Symphony’s distinctive orchestral sound, and he takes great pains to reveal much usually unheard instrumental detail (especially in the Hero Goes to War); but he does so at the expense of dynamic energy. As a result, there’s virtually nothing “heroic” about this reading, and Strauss’ piece seems to go on for longer than it actually is.

The same can be said for Death and Transfiguration. Again, it’s well played and exquisitely balanced, but thanks to Nagano’s tamped-down emotions and dynamics, the music’s usually enthralling climaxes sound too well-behaved. The somewhat hazy, low-level recording reinforces this impression. In sum, there’s no real need for this recording to exist, and there’s no real need for you to buy it.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Ein Heldenleben: Reiner (RCA); Ormandy (Sony); Solti (Decca); Pesek (Virgin)

    Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano

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