October 1997

R. Strauss

Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 5. Funf Klavierstucke, Op. 3. Stimmungsbilder, Op. 9.
Oleg Marshev (pf) / Danacord DACOCD440 / 74 DDD

Like Tchaikovsky’s piano music, Strauss’s youthful offerings are little more than diversions from his truest enterprise. Certainly there are some delectable surprises (often located within a single and initially unpromising piece) and both the B minor Sonata and the Op. 3 Piano Pieces found an unlikely champion in Glenn Gould, a piquant provocateur and lover of all things unpianistic. Oleg Marshev, a gifted young Russian pianist, warms to his ungrateful task with commendable affection and bravura and, unlike Gould in his celebrated Sony recital, he includes Strauss’s best keyboard work, the Stimmungsbilder, Op. 9. Here Strauss’s love of introspection finds an outlet in pages of Eusebian rapture, a far cry from the sonata’s braying, quasi-orchestral ambition. And while all these pieces may be over-extended, one can admire the curious rhythm of “An einsamer Quelle” (“At the solitary spring”) and a lively episode at the heart of No. 3, entitled “Intermezzo”. In Op. 3 the hounds and horns are in full cry in No. 2, Allegro vivace scherzando, with the odd passing harmonic idiosyncrasy to remind you that you are listening to Strauss rather than Schumann. Even darker surprises are in store in No. 3, a Largo to keep audiences guessing and on the qui vivre (“late Liszt, or at least ‘Il penseroso’, Alkan?”).

So here is a record for ardent collectors, satisfactorily recorded and played with full-blooded technique (try the Sonata’s octave coda) and poetry.