Oculi Ensemble: Metamorphosen review – How Strauss shed his father’s influence

Fri, Jan 22, 2021, 05:00

   
 

Album:
Metamorphosen - Strauss Chamber Works

Artist:
Oculi Ensemble

Label:
Champs Hill Records

Genre:
Classical

Pushy, protective parents don’t always get what they want from their children. The 19th-century Munich horn player and composer Franz Strauss certainly didn’t.

He was one of the great instrumentalists of his day, and greatly appreciated by Wagner. But the esteem was not reciprocated, and Franz kept his prodigiously talented son Richard away from the later 19th-century music he so disliked; only the classics and approved earlier 19th-century masters were allowed through his filters.

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Richard would duly go his own wild way and become the bete noire of conservative critics. But his teenage chamber music is thoroughly infused with reminiscences of models approved by his father, and the classical influence would also be reflected in his reputation as a conductor of Mozart and his involvement in a 1920s project to record the complete symphonies of Beethoven.

The Oculi Ensemble, luxuriously taking its membership from multiple string quartets, link the two ends of Richard’s long career, framing early chamber music – the dutiful, well-schooled String Quartet in A plus a quartet fragment and some rather more interesting works for piano quartet – with the celebrated string sextet that opens the 1942 opera Capriccio and Rudolf Leopold’s quartet into a pint-pot arrangement of the deeply reflective, autumnal Metamorphosen.

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