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Strauss: Horn Concerto No 1, Eine Alpensinfonie / Kempe, Civil, Royal Po

Release Date: 02/10/2009 
Label:  Testament   Catalog #: 1428   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  Alan Civil
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

R. STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony. Horn Concerto No. 1 Rudolf Kempe, cond; Alan Civil (hn); Royal PO TESTAMENT 1428 (65:55)

This is a critically important recording for fans of Richard Strauss and An Alpine Symphony . We are all in debt to Testament for making available Rudolf Kempe’s groundbreaking 1966 RCA recording of An Alpine Symphony for the first time on a well-made CD Read more that accurately reproduces the sound of the original LP. It has been previously available on a mediocre Rediscovery CD (remastered by David Gideon) that plugged the gap until the appearance of this reissue. The original recording was produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson (the team responsible for the Reader’s Digest recordings and the RCA “Classic Film Score” series). Needless to say, the sound is superlative. More on that later.

Kempe ranks with Fritz Reiner and Karl Böhm as a Strauss specialist. He has no peer in the management of orchestral balances that is so critical to the music of Strauss. This is clearly evident here in the transparency he brings to Strauss’s masterful manipulation of his huge orchestra (in contrast to the denser texture of Mariss Jansons’s recent SACD with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra ( Fanfare 32:4). Every single instrumental detail is clearly audible and never buried in a muddy orchestral mix that characterizes so many recordings of An Alpine Symphony . Kempe re-recorded the work as part of his survey of Strauss’s orchestral music on EMI. The Staatskapelle Dresden plays better than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but EMI’s sound cannot compare to this. Kempe’s RCA version, aided by its sound, is clearly preferable by a considerable margin. Alan Civil’s brilliant interpretation of Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1 may not be quite on the level of the legendary Dennis Brain’s mono EMI version with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, but it is the preferable performance in modern stereo sound, along with Barry Tuckwell accompanied by István Kertész and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The sound for An Alpine Symphony and the Horn Concerto, both engineered by Wilkinson in Kingsway Hall, is amazing. This has all of the clarity, sweetness, and inner detail of the RCA “Classic Film Score” series and at the same time maintains accurate orchestral balances. The high-lying wind and trumpet sonorities that provide the sonic signature of An Alpine Symphony for once receive proper emphasis. My only quibble is the relatively reticent organ and the overall lack of bass in a recording that otherwise has never been matched in the way it reveals the fine nuances of Strauss’s orchestration. Zubin Mehta’s excellent Decca performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra gets the bass and organ right, but lacks the mid-range clarity of this recording. In comparison to Kempe, that well-received recent Jansons SACD with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is the sonic equivalent of an overdose of Ambien.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Horn no 1 in E flat major, Op. 11 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Alan Civil (French Horn)
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1883; Germany 
Length: 17 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911-1915; Germany 
Length: 44 Minutes 37 Secs. 

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