2014 marks a year of celebration recognizing the 150th birthday year of the German late-Romantic orchestral, operatic and lied master composer, Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Arabella (premiered 1933, Dresden) was the last of the half dozen Strauss works to feature a libretto by the great Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal. This production, from the most recent Salzburg Easter Festival is, after Capriccio, the second of three Richard Strauss operas C Major is releasing in honor of the composers birth, life and work. The star-laden cast includes soprano Renèe Fleming, baritone Thomas Hampson, Albert Dohmen (Covent Garden, Wiener Staatsoper, MET) and Gabriela Beaková (Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden). With Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden, the music of Richard Strauss is in the best of hands. (ORF) Thielemann gets the best out of the cast…especially Renée Fleming with her luxurious soprano.
Violinist Arabella Steinbacher and pianist Robert Kulek continue their great collaboration with a new PENTATONE release, the recording of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in A, which joins Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Op. 18. While Franck’s violin sonata is epic in character, Strauss’ work is full of jovial energy, hope and anticipation. This fusion of elements brilliantly demonstrates the synergy between Steinbacher and Kulek, something we have witnessed during their recital performances over the past few years.
All of Richard Strauss' stage works inhabit a special world of their own and Arabella is certainly no exception. Set amid the flamboyant aristocracy of 19th-century Vienna, the story centres on Arabella whose family fortunes have come to depend on her managing a wealthy man.
Determined to marry for love rather than riches, she encounters a mysterious and foreign nobleman in the form of Mandryka and after several romps, the opera ends positively on a blissful note… Gerald Fenech
“…Fleming looks fabulous, knows and can deliver good German, and can sing this role at least as well as anyone on the planet at the moment. But it's a shame that all concerned did not wait for a genuinely new production to preserve. This run-through of an old staging… is fluent and energetic… but it is not an evening pregnant with dramatic insight. In the pit Welser-Möst is an efficient, unemotional guide to the score…” (Gramophone Magazine)