STRAUSS Ein Heldenleben. Macbeth
If this is disc is anything to go by, Andrés Orozco-Estrada is a fine Straussian. He negotiates his way through both of these scores with impressive command, keeping Ein Heldenleben’s tendencies towards excess in check. He makes a pretty persuasive case for Macbeth, too – even if it remains for me, pace Pentatone’s frankly poor booklet-note, a problem piece, rooted in a certain literalism and lacking the compelling poetic coherence that would come with Don Juan and the subsequent tone-poems.
The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, as captured by Pentatone (in two different venues: the city’s Alte Oper for Heldenleben and the Basilika Kloster Eberbach, Eltville, for Macbeth) offer a rich, well-upholstered sound, and one smoother than their Frankfurt neighbours on Oehms’s new Alpensinfonie (see above) – or indeed their earlier disc of the same coupling (Oehms, 2013). Everything’s where it should be, and the playing has an easy virtuosity.
Heldenleben sets off with terrific swagger, while the love music swells and swoons magnificently, bolstered by some beautifully rounded playing from the horns and a silky corporate string tone. There are times, however, where Orozco-Estrada might have elicited a little more character from his players: from the wind as they evoke the hero’s ‘works of peace’, for example, or even from the somewhat laid-back-sounding companion we get from leader Alejandro Rutkauskas. His final intertwining duet with the horn solo (again, played with gratifyingly full tone) isn’t quite as tender and loving as it might be, either. Still, this is a fine, rousing and full bodied Heldenleben.
In some ways the same might be said of the Macbeth. But this is a leisurely account of a score in which a lack of sharper edges is more of a problem – and the Eltville venue’s more reverberant acoustic doesn’t help here, either. It’s still impressive on its own terms; but turn to Maazel with the Bavarian RSO to hear what cleaner focus and greater urgency can bring.