RICHARD STRAUSS: SALOME Conducted by Herbert von Karajan
(Angel; 2 discs)
Landmark. Abetted by the magnificent Vienna Philharmonic, Karajan goads the dynamics of the brutal, decadent score to the limit. He waited years for his perfect Salomé and found her in Hildegard Behrens: she soars above the orchestra’s thunder with her high, lambent tessitura, and never has the adolescent girl’s obsession been so obdurate. José van Dam is the best John the Baptist yet. Gives new I meaning to the word spectacular.
LEOS JANACEK: TARAS BULBA/SUITE FROM ‘THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN ’ Conducted by Andrew Davis (Columbia)
The Toronto Symphony does jubilant justice to Vixen's comic-strip charm; in Taras it shows off the swelling of a Slav’s heart. Eerie, rhapsodic strings, but Davis is still restrained. Close your eyes, though, and you’ll see dust stirred by the clatter of hooves and, possibly, Yul Brynner.
THE FIRST LADY OF THE GUITAR
Her idea of variety is to append black to white; courting complexity, she gives us some grey. Her arrangements of Albéniz, Sor and Satie don’t quite measure up to those of her facial features. Only Milton Barnes’ Fantasy For Guitar manages to damn the flow of tedium.
PUCCINI: LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST Conducted by Zubin Mehta (Deutsche Grammophon; 3 discs)
A true American opera—a western. Belasco wrote it. Caruso and Emmy Destinn first sang it at The Met in 1910. Minnie (Carol Neblett), a saloon owner, falls for Mr. Johnson (Placido Domingo), a bandit. Mehta surpasses himself; Domingo is | superb; Neblett, harsh but exciting, has tim| ber in her timbre. Stupendous sound.
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