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STRAUSS, R.: Elektra / Ariadne auf Naxos (Final Scenes) (Schluter, Welitsch, Schoffler, Beecham) (1947)

Composer(s):Strauss, Richard
Period(s) 20th Century
Genre Classical Music
Category Opera
Catalogue 8.111372
Label Naxos Historical
Quality   320kbps
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 This album is not available in your country due to licensing restrictions or copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.

Sourced from American RCA Victor shellac pressings for Elektra, and HMV test pressings for Ariadne auf Naxos which were unpublished on 78rpm, this Naxos Historical album celebrates the enormous mutual admiration between Richard Strauss and Sir Thomas Beecham. Beecham had introduced Elektra to London in 1910 and presented the first version of Ariadne in London three years later. The recordings heard here of the final scenes from each opera were made almost three decades later following performances given in the presence of the composer. For the recording of Elektra, Beecham was fortunate to be to able call upon the renowned interpreters of Strauss’s music Erna Schlüter, Ljuba Welitsch and Paul Schöffler, who were appearing



Review By John P McKelvey,American Record Guide,November 2011

…these recordings are truly historic, so grimly, indeed sickeningly realistic and strongly projected, in the case of Elektra as to blow away all the competition, possibly even from Böhm and Reiner. The singing cast is uniformly splendid, one notch above first-rate, and Beecham’s leadership is likewise inspired. The dying screams of Klytemnestra (likely done by Ms Schluter) are really ghastly!

The Ariadne excerpts are likewise…first-rate musically and sonically…There is great music there, also performed to perfection by Beecham and the RPO…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Review By Classica,July 2011


Review By Gary Lemco,Audiophile Audition,May 2011

The postwar recordings by Sir Thomas Beecham (1879–1961) achieved a plateau in 1947, a banner year for his work in the EMI studios. In the month of October 1947, Beecham dedicated his efforts to the music of Richard Strauss, with Ariadne auf Naxos, 13–15; and with Elektra, 27–29, each with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. For Elektra (1909), Strauss took the tragedy of Sophocles’ Oresteia and exploited its themes of blood-lust and revenge as vehicles for some of the most dissonant music he ever composed. Schumann-Heink, the original Clytemnestra in Dresden, commented that “We have lived and reached the furthest boundary in dramatic writing for the voice with Wagner. But Richard Strauss goes beyond him. His singing voices are lost. We have come to

For his recording of Elektra’s final scene, Beecham has principals from the Vienna State Opera, who happened to be appearing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Erna Schlueter (1904–1969) projects lyrical albeit disturbed Elektra, while Paul Schoeffler (1897–1977) seems more comfortable in what seems a basically Wagnerian helden-baritone role. The extended “recognition scene”—in which bedraggled Elektra realizes that a stranger is in fact a disguised Orestes—conveys a palpable anguish, the scene a twisted variant on Siegfried and Sieglinde. The murder scene proves quite harrowing, the House of Atreus dripping with blood. Tenor Walter Widdop (1892–1949) brings a nervous hysteria to his confrontation with Elektra, who has passed the fatal hatchet to her brother. Ljuba Welitsch ((1913–1966) enacts sister Chrysothemis with justifiable repugnance at the deed of matricide and murder. The entire scene opening with “Elektra! Schwester!” which culminates in Elektra’s dizzying last dance, has a grueling perversity about it, Viennese rhythms warped by every sort of human malice. The orchestral part urges the strings, battery, and harp to tempests of savagery, what some critics call “purple-prose opera.” But if you must have this music, Beecham certainly gets it right.

How different the string and wind Sinfonica (Overture) that prefaces Beecham’s final scene from Ariadne auf Naxos (1916), with its puns and conceits on the commedia dell’arte and the comedy of Moliere. Strauss wants two simultaneous productions—Le bourgeois gentilhomme and the legend of the abandoned Ariadne—to comment upon each other, an invitation to polyphony of music and mind. The burlesque Moliere group tries to console Ariadne in her tragic mood, having been deserted Theseus. Tenor Karl Friedrich (1905–1981) sings Bacchus, who rules over the Strauss equivalent of Wagner’s Rhinemaidens in the form of Najade, Dryade, and Echo. Soprano Maria Cebotari (1910–1949), near the end of her tragically short career, sings Ariadne. Much of the lush, “magical” instrumentation suggests elements from Dermore....

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