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.
October 21, 2012 marks Sir Georg Soltis centenary and Decca is celebrating this with several important reissues.
Sir Georg was an exclusive Decca artist for 50 years. In 1947 he signed his first contract with Decca - as a pianist and that same year he made his first record as a conductor (with the Zurich Tonhalle in Beethovens Egmont Overture). His last public concerts took place just a few weeks before his death in 1997 and were with the Zurich Tonhalle.
Götz Friedrich’s 1981 Elektra film sets Richard Strauss’ opera in a dark and dingy abandoned 20th-century factory populated by grungy denizens in psuedo-Greek garb. Elektra herself appears like some deranged homeless woman reeking with sweat and slime (in the rain). And the depravity doesn’t stop there. Friedrich plays up the work’s sado-masochistic elements, with bloody whippings and an orgy sequence involving nude lesbians bathing themselves in the blood of a sacrificial ram. Now you might think that all of this detracts from the score, but on the contrary, the production matches image to music so brilliantly that anyone seeing this opera for the first time would think they were created for each other (which allows you to ignore the occasional useless, almost silly gesture, such as the frequent and prolonged shots of Agamemnon’s bloodied visage during Elektra’s opening monologue).
The other major orchestral release here features the Richard Strauss recordings conducted for Sony Classical by Zubin Mehta.
Thanks to the dedicated effort of the folks at Real Gone, this often bootlegged date by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band gets its first official release. These 13 tracks come from a smoking date at the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston. Nobody's sure of the exact date, but estimates put it somewhere during a two-week run in May, two months before the band's classic East-West was released. There's over an hour of music on what amounts to the first recorded document from this sextet: hard-grooving Chicago drummer Billy Davenport (Sam Lay left after the band's debut album) joined vocalist/harmonicist Butterfield, guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, organist Mark Naftalin, and bassist Jerome Arnold.