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STRAUSS, RICHARD: DON QUIXOTE; ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA - DIMITRI MITROPOULOS
STRAUSS, RICHARD: DON QUIXOTE; ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA - DIMITRI MITROPOULOS

STRAUSS, RICHARD: DON QUIXOTE; ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA - DIMITRI MITROPOULOS

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Don Quixote isn't even mentioned in William R. Trotter's biography of this conductor, and my admittedly less than thorough online search had me similarly drawing a blank, so I am going to guess that this particular tone poem was not frequently programmed by Mitropoulos. That's a shame, because one expects that it would suit him well in terms of temperament. That expectation is realized, if only partly, by this new CD.

I write "only partly" because this is one of those occasions when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Bauer must be one of the least effective soloists I've ever heard in this work. Hearing him, one might conclude that the dominant sensation in Quixote's life was physical pain. Bauer's playing doesn't begin to realize the music's depth, and he has problems with pitch as well. Schroer is even less memorable, or would be, were he not balanced so far forward. This is one intrusive Sancho Panza! The orchestra's playing ranges from acceptable to ragged; the music representing Quixote's climactic battle with the "Knight of the White Moon" sounds as if it is being played by a high school orchestra. Some of the balances are, to use a charitable word, quaint. It is possible that some of these problems are related to microphone placement. From the podium, perhaps all was well. I don't know. I can't dismiss this reading entirely, though, because it has its moments--everyone sounds happiest when Strauss is at his most grotesque--and because Mitropoulos conducts the score with such affection and dignity. The planets seemed to come into alignment less frequently for Mitropoulos than they did for many of his contemporaries, and here's another frustrating case of "woulda, coulda, shoulda." In other words, why couldn't there be a recording of this work by Mitropoulos with a first-class orchestra and cellist? To add to the ambivalence, the recording quality is excellent--practically of studio quality. Apparently these performances are receiving their first authorized release here, and the original master tapes from Cologne Radio were used to produce this CD.

Mitropoulos's Also sprach Zarathustra is more of a known quantity. More than a decade ago (in Fanfare 21:3, as a matter of fact), I reviewed a 1958 performance from Salzburg (Orfeo 458 971), played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and praised it for its honesty and expansiveness. This one has similar virtues, although it is faster in some sections and slower in others, and it has better sound. There's no use comparing the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra to the Concertgebouw, however, but in fairness, the former ensemble must have rehearsed Zarathustra more--or else received a stern pep-talk during intermission in the locker room!--because the cringe-worthy quality of their playing in Don Quixote is absent here.

1. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Einleitung: Don Quixote verliert den Verstand (Don Quixote
2. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Thema: Don Quixote und Sancho Panza (Don Quixote and Sanch
3. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 2: Der siegreiche Kampf gegen die Hammelherde (T
4. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 4: Das Abenteuer mit den Pilgern / The Adventure
5. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 5. Des Ritters Nachtwache (The Knight's Vigil)
6. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 6. Die Begegnung mit Dulzima (The Meeting with D
7. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 7. Der Ritt durch die Luft (The Ride through the
8. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 8. Die Fahrt im venezianischen Nachen (The Voyag
9. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 9. Kampf mit den zwei Zauberern (The Combat with
10. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Variation 10. Zwikampf mit dem Ritter vom blanken Mond (Th
11. Don Quixote, fantastic variations for cello & orchestra, Op. 35 (TrV 184): Finale: Don Quixotes Tod (Don Quixote's Death)
12. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 1. Einleitung (Introduction)
13. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 2. Von den Hinterweltlern (Of the Backworl
14. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 4. Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of
15. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 5. Das Grablied (The Song ofthe Grave)
16. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 6. Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Le
17. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 7. Der Genesende (The Convalescent - )
18. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 7. Der Genesende (- Ziemlich langsam - sch
19. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 8. Das Tanzlied (The Dance-Song)
20. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 9. Nachtwanderlied (The Song of the Night
21. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 (TrV 176): 9. Nachtwanderlied ( - Langsam)