The creation of Daphne was not a simple affair, especially for what concerned the poetic text (due to the modest talent of the librettist Joseph Gregor), but on 15th October 1938 the opera was finally premièred at Dresden’s Staatstheater. On the podium was the young conductor Karl Böhm. Daphne is a masterpiece of early 20th-century vocal music. Structured in a single act, this opera is a solid work with a rich musical vein. Strauss’s orchestration appears, as always, remarkably refined. The vocal writing is demanding for all the main characters, but especially so for the protagonist, here interpreted by a magnificent June Anderson. Filmed in high definition at Venice’s La Fenice, the present production is directed by Paul Curran.
The epic grandeur of Der Rosenkavalier stems not just from its immense length (over three hours) but from the all-too-human complexity of its characters–each of whom is smitten with someone else–and the endless stream of graceful melodies the composer conjures. After the tonality-stretching dissonance of Salome and especially Elektra, Strauss moved onto a different musical path here: the music's sheer gorgeousness has given this most heartbreaking of 20th-century operas its pride of place in the repertory.
Others have praised this Covent Garden Salome for its dramatic impact, and with good cause. The direcotr, Luc Bondy, has translated the opera into tortured terms that the painter Egon Schiele would recognize; the sexuality is masochistic, frenzied, and self-destructive. John the Baptist is no solemn stick of wood – Bryn Terfel makes him as agonized and writhing as Salome herself. But the brunt of the Expressionist labor falls on the cat-like Malfitano, whose descent into madness is neither campy nor stagey. She's a great actress, and she adapts to the stylized movements straight out of Nosferatu with total conviction. (Only the opening scene is weak, since her girlish figure can't completely disguise that she is considerably too old to be the Judean princess.)… By Santa Fe Listener
Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com essential recording
This recording was the hi-fi demo disc of the 1950s. On CD, it still sounds pretty incredible; an achievement as remarkable technically as it is musically. And what playing! Fritz Reiner sadistically enjoyed driving his players to despair. There's a famous story about principal trumpeter Adolph (Bud) Herseth, who played his tricky little fanfare at the beginning of the second half of Zarathustra so perfectly so many times that even Reiner finally gave up. Most critics and Strauss lovers consider Reiner's performance of A Hero's Life to be the best ever committed to disc, and I'd be the last one to disagree. This is one of those recordings where everything just went right.
One of the very best records The Cleveland Orchestra made with late George Szell… marvelous orchestral playing and exhilarating excitement – The Gramophone
Lorin Maazel usually is a very good Strauss conductor, and he's at his best in these live recordings. He launches Don Juan with considerable gusto, and only the quiet passage before the famous horn theme sounds as if it could move a bit more purposefully forward. The orchestra plays extremely well, as it does in Death and Transfiguration, an interpretation full of excitement and (at the end) exaltation, and without a trace of the affectation that sometimes mars Maazel's work. The truth is, he has such a fine podium technique that it sometimes seems he does things because he can, rather than because he should–but not here. This performance, and the smoldering, sultry, deliciously trashy Salomé's Dance, are the disc's highlights. The Rosenkavalier Suite closes the program in ebullient fashion, though the music itself isn't quite so much fun as the other items on the program. The live sonics are good, a touch raw at the climaxes, but very acceptable. I do wish, though, that the applause had been edited out. Recommended.
Karajan was a great Straussian, and this collection, produced by John Culshaw in 1959-60, with the VPO (especially the strings) in superb form, shows him at his most charismatic. Also sprach Zarathustra was a famous early Decca stereo demonstration record, and remains as spectacular as ever. The many-faceted portrait of Till is delectably witty, Don Juan is exciting, racy, and full of sensuality, which is voluptuously shared by the dramatic and sinuous 'Salome's dance'. The transfers undoubtedly recreate the sonic excitement of the originals.
Ivan March, Gramophone
Karajan gives his soprano incandescent support and the playing, needless to say, is superb. This is a 'must' for all Straussians, and surely for many others.' - Alan Blyth, Gramophone