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Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra / Mehta, Los Angeles PO

Release Date: 01/20/2009 
Label:  Lim   Catalog #: 35  
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

R. STRAUSS Also Sprach Zarathustra Zubin Mehta, cond; Los Angeles PO LIM 35 (33:03)

This CD is described as a high definition remastering of Zubin Mehta’s 1968 recording of Also Sprach Zarathustra with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It was the first of Mehta’s justly acclaimed series of Decca-London recordings of the orchestral music of Richard Strauss (that also included Ein Heldenleben, Don Quixote, An Read more Alpine Symphony, and the Sinfonia domestica ). These performances rank with the finest Strauss recordings ever made, especially when you consider their sound. They are the polar opposite of Fritz Reiner’s interpretive approach. Reiner emphasizes clarity of orchestral lines at a generally faster tempo in contrast to Mehta’s almost decadent lushness. During his tenure in Los Angeles, Mehta was striving for a dark, burnished sonority (resembling the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) that is clearly apparent in his Decca-London versions of Mahler’s Second Symphony and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. He was a much more dynamic and exciting young conductor at this time, and these interpretations should not be confused with his later dull and disorganized days with the New York Philharmonic. The sound is designed to showcase that rich Straussian sonority with emphasis on the lower registers of the orchestra (cellos and double basses). The famous opening section has never sounded better than it does on the original British Decca pressing, but its previous CD reincarnations have been marred by excessive surface noise, especially at the quiet beginning. I am generally extremely wary of high frequency filtering, but it apparently works here. The surfaces are quiet, with minimal detectable damage to instrumental texture. No recording of Also Sprach Zarathustra differentiates the opening double basses from the organ pedal as this one does. The pounding timpani are almost unbelievable in their impact and focus. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is certainly not in the class of Reiner’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but Mehta has better sound, especially in those low frequencies.

The album notes say practically nothing about the technical aspects of this CD other than the fact that it is derived from the original master tape, utilizes K2HD 24-bit, 100KHZ mastering (whatever that is), and is replicated by JVC in Japan. The CD is housed in a fancy purple booklet-type album with a large front window revealing a gorgeous reproduction of the original British-Decca record cover. The LP’s program notes and some other basic information on Strauss and Mehta are included in the package. Whether or not you are willing to part with $34.99 for this perhaps unparalleled Straussian sonic showcase has to be your decision. Strauss fans who are also audiophiles cannot afford to be without it. Now, how about the same treatment for Mehta’s Ein Heldenleben and Alpine Symphony?

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895-1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1968 

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