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On the strength of the 24/96 flac. download, this is a beautifully detailed transfer of one of Strauss’s lesser known masterpieces - an autobiographical piece centering upon a day in the life in the Strauss household. Partly lyical, partly humorous, the work is nevertheless a very advanced piece for a skilled orchestra of significant size. Who better to interpret this than Fritz Reiner and his great orchestra, the superb Chicago Symphony, here playing in 1956 along with one of RCA’s hugely successful early genuine stereo recordings, helped along by the generous acoustics of the orchestra’s own Symphony Hall? Reiner certainly had few rivals in Strauss. Several other great recordings have come and gone, but only a small handful, such as this, have stood the test of time. If you have no other version, you’re in safe hands here in terms of standard of performance and recorded sonics by any measure. An interesting - but very minor - point, although the various section tracks are much more accessible than they ever were in the days of vinyl/commercially-produced tape, is that it remains possible to determine where the original ‘side turn’ Lp side turn occurred. This is during the Adagio, where the score is marked ‘Erstes Zeitmaß’ (6 minutes into track 4) - the orchestra comes to a stop gracefully on the first semiquaver (quarter-note) of the bar, pauses for two seconds or so, but then continues with the rest of the bar and on towards the ‘second half’ of the piece as if nothing has happened. In fact, the music demands that the music follows straight on without any break. Having also checked RCA’s own in-house CD version of this, it seems no patchover has ever been placed over the break to join the ‘Lp sides’ together, and as the present transfer is from an open reel tape of the period, the break, here too, remains. But this really doesn’t matter as the moment in question is so well managed by musicians and recording engineers, it could almost be that the composer intended things this way. A very slightly ragged opening to the Finale’s fugue section aside, all sections of the orchestra play with supreme virtuosity: these players yielded nothing in terms of technique and musicianship to their counterparts in Cleveland or Philadelphia who, with their own Hungarian émigré conductors, Szell and Ormandy, also recorded this and other Strauss repertoire to such great effect. Worthy of special mention must be the Chicago orchestra’s principal trumpet, Adolph Herseth, who occupied his position in the orchestra for 53 years (1948-2001)! Herseth has much to do here; the Tarzan of orchestral brass players performs a death-defying leap up to a high C just a few bars into the beginning of the piece (track 1, one minute in), followed by several more towards the end of the work’s closing triple fugue, which - in the narrative - represents ‘Papa’, ‘Mama’ and ‘Baby’. Overall, lush textures, singing upper strings, chattering, yet solid and faultless woodwinds, inspiring tuttis (eg. unison statement of ‘the child’s theme’ given by the horns) and astonishing technical facility mark out this great recording of such a warm-hearted work. The present transfer is of the highest quality, clearer than RCA’s own in-house version, with more texture. Very highly recommended.
Title: Richard Strauss Sinfonia Domestica, for orchestra, Op. 53 (TrV 209)
Artist(s): Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner
Recording Info: Transferred from a 15ips 2-track tape
Producer – Richard Mohr
Recording Engineer – Lewis Layton
Recorded November 5, 1956, at Orchestra Hall, Chicago by RCA
1 Bewegt 5:22
2 Scherzo 6:27
3 Wiegenlied / Cradle Song 6:04
4 Adagio 12:18
5 Finale 13:34
Total Time: 43:45