Both scores in this release were written in 1893. Richard Strauss was just nineteen, but already an experienced composer. Both also use Beethoven works as their models, and in some parts, their style.
The concert piece uses the Coreolon overture. It’s considered the least successful of the two works. The structural flaws mentioned in the liner notes didn’t especially bother me. What I did hear was music that closely resembled Beethoven’s — save in orchestration.
The Concertouvertüre in C minor is modeled after Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, using a similar gesture to begin the work. As Strauss’ overture progresses, though, the style seems to slide more towards Mendelssohn — especially “Fingal’s Cave.” But then it’s back to Beethoven for a massive fugue (which I found quite exciting).
The work was criticized for not having a programmatic title, the standard for Romantic concert overtures after Mendelssohn. Overall, it wasn’t considered a successful work.
The Symphony in F minor, Op. 12 had a better track record. It was the third symphony Strauss had composed, and the second he assigned a number to. Brahms even called it “quite nice.” To my ears, the symphony sounds at times like a bigger version of the Concertouvertüre.
Like the overture, Beethoven’s symphonic writing seems to be a model. The Scherzo pays tribute to Mendelssohn, and once again there’s a large fugal section.
But this symphony works and seems to work better than the overture. His orchestrations seem surer, somehow. Strauss lays everything out in a well-defined four-movement symphonic form. At times the music seems almost ready to burst with dramatic energy. This may not be the Strauss of the great tone poems, but the seeds are planted. This is music writ large, and it needs a large orchestra to pull it off.
The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie is recorded in a large, spacious soundfield. The ensemble has a warm, rich sound that seems well-suited to the music. Under the direction of Hermann Baumer, they perform with energy and fire. Baumer embraces the influences, letting the music roar with Beethovenian rage or dance with Mendelssohnian delicacy.
These were works I had not heard before. They provided a fascinating look into Strauss’s development and provided a darned good listening experience on their own merits.
Richard Strauss: Concert Overture in C minor; Symphony No. 2 in F minor, Op. 12
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie; Hermann Baumer, conductor