The work’s primitive ostinati and pseudo-mediaevalism also appealed to the fascist mentality, making it the musical equivalent of Albert Speer’s monstrous architecture for Hitler’s proposed capital Germania, or Leni Riefenstahl’s Nuremburg rally documentaries. As a teenager, I always found it among the most exciting scores ever composed. We’re all young once… This performance is relatively low-powered, especially in comparison to Muti’s Philharmonia and Frühbeck de Burgos’s high-octane accounts, which feature the greatly lamented Lucia Popp and Arleen Augér respectively (both EMI). The orchestra sound here is quite recessed, which lessens its contribution to the essential velocity of this piece.
That the orchestra concerned is the Bavarian Radio Symphony, who, of all ensembles, should be at home in this “Bavarian” music, is all the more regrettable. The results are much more satisfactory in the quieter, more poetic passages, of which there are many. The soloists are more than adequate, with Patricia Petibon (normally more associated with Chabrier and Poulenc!) coping well with the ethereal heights of Dulcissime; Hans Werner Bunz does his dying swan with all the requisite grotesquerie but it’s the uncanny resemblance of baritone Christian Gerhaher’s voice to that of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau that stopped me in my tracks. Nonetheless, stick with Muti or Frühbeck de Burgos.