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Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie, Don Juan / Jansons, Royal Concertgebouw

Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Rco Live   Catalog #: 8006   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


R. STRAUSS Don Juan. 1 An Alpine Symphony 2 Mariss Jansons, cond; Royal Concertgebouw O RCO LIVE 8006 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 70:22) Live: Amsterdam 9/2007; Read more class="SUPER12">2 10/2007,1/2008 1

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra continue their series of SACD recordings of large-scaled orchestral works with a well-conceived album containing Richard Strauss’s first and last tone poems. Most of their recordings so far have been solid in every way, but few have been truly outstanding to the point where they could be considered the preferred performances in a very crowded field. Don Juan is usually about speed, impetuosity, and sonority. The definitive Strauss experts (Fritz Reiner and Karl Böhm) play it fast and lean, emphasizing the classical side of Strauss, but there is another equally valid way to do it. Jansons takes nearly a minute longer, and the difference is as telling as it is surprising. Jansons usually doesn’t linger in his tempos, but here he does not rush at all as he effectively utilizes the Concertgebouw’s unparalleled brass section to produce a sumptuous sound that is closer to the Alpine Symphony than usual. The broad tempo makes the climactic statement of the horn call sound simply stunning.

The once underexposed Alpine Symphony has been getting plenty of recordings in recent years. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra would seem to be born to play this piece when you consider their gorgeous strings and brass, along with their historical tradition with the music of Strauss. In short, this SACD performance is a potential jaw-dropping delight that doesn’t disappoint. Jansons adopts a generally slow approach similar to Don Juan , and the orchestra responds with an orgy of sumptuous sound. The Concertgebouw brass section intones the opening and closing brass chords with an awe- inspiring sense of gravity. Jansons paces the music well as he builds the work’s arch-like structure. His consistently slow tempos and slightly restrained approach may seem just a bit ponderous and lacking in tonal and dynamic contrast for some listeners, but this is a minor quibble. I would rank it just behind Zubin Mehta (Decca) in terms of sound and performance, and Mehta’s Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra cannot seriously compete with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in some of Strauss’s most extravagantly lush music. The sound is excellent, despite the fact that the engineers resist the temptation to produce unrealistic sound effects in this overtly sensational music. This also makes the “Thunderstorm” sound a little sedate.

The live recording effectively captures the Concertgebouw hall’s spatial information with a wide and deep soundstage. The offstage horns are excellent. The tonal richness of the orchestra is clearly apparent and there is no lack of inner detail, such as the low string configurations reminiscent of the “Forest Murmurs” from Wagner’s Siegfried in the opening transition from “Night” to “Sunrise.” The organ pedal in the pivotal and climactic “Vision” sequence is thunderous, but perfectly integrated with the orchestra.

In short, you will not find a better pairing of these two Strauss tone poems with SACD sound that perfectly matches the stylistically consistent performances.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911-1915; Germany 
Length: 48 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Don Juan, Op. 20 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Germany 
Length: 17 Minutes 29 Secs. 

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