'I will call my Alpine Symphony the Anti-Christian, because in it there is moral purification by means of one's own strength, liberation through work, worship of glorious, eternal nature'. In the end, of course, Strauss shied away from the inflammatory subtitle, yet the quotation is instructive. With more on his mind than a day's hike, Strauss had originally intended the work to convey a Nietzschean vitalism (is it coincidence that the trombones announce the summit in grandiloquent Zarathustrian fifths)?
Thielemann's is, by a considerable margin, the finest account we have had since Karajan's (and is rather better played): the performers' emotional commitment is stamped onRead more every bar. Having the VPO on top form is a decided advantage: the brass-playing throughout is electrifying, no mean achievement since this disc was recorded live. It becomes clear very early on that we're in for something special, but anyone wishing to sample the performance at its formidable best might start 'on the glacier' (track 9) - the perilously high trumpet writing more confidently negotiated than for Karajan - and continue until they are 'on the summit'. On the way up, 'Dangerous moments' (track 10) is simply superb, Thielemann and the orchestra alive to every flickering nuance of accent and dynamic. And I've never heard the oboe's awe-struck contemplation of the surrounding vistas better done, the rubato exactly conveying the climber's physical breathlessness and spiritual exaltation. Thereafter, Strauss's ecstatic tumult is given full rein. This is a real performance: no-one is holding back, no-one playing safe.
Which isn't to imply anything unsubtle: I'd never before registered the close kinship between 'Rising mists' (track 13) and the passage in which the Captain and the Doctor contemplate the lake in which Berg's Wozzeck has just drowned himself, so clearly does Thielemann articulate the disparate strands. Only when manoeuvring 'On the wrong track through thickets and undergrowth' does he seem unsure how best to clarify Strauss's knotted textures (tellingly, Karajan gets through this section a touch faster). I can't resist singling out the violins' glissando down to the very last note, so other-worldly that it's almost frightening, and surely one of the weirdest sounds ever conjured from the Vienna Phil. In principle, one might object to some of Thielemann's bizarrely slow tempos (as at fig 31 - track 4, 3'10"ff) and his tendency to linger over phrase endings (especially noticeable as night falls again), but here at least is someone who believes in the music and has something to say about it.
The various Rosenkavalier 'suites' usually seem insubstantial, but this one, at nearly 25 minutes, is both a generous filler and an effective wind-down after the main work. Thielemann seems keen to defend the pot-pourri from any charge of vulgarity, which means that such moments as Sophie and Octavian's final duet - ravishingly done here - make more of an impact than the very opening. The protracted pause before the great Trio is also a feature of Thielemann's performances of the complete opera.
Captured in a recording at once lushly upholstered and thrillingly visceral, divided violins and all, this is unquestionably Thielemann's finest release to date, and has to be my own orchestral disc of the year so far. Occasional audience noises in both works never amount to a serious distraction. Ozawa and even Previn with the same orchestra are effectively superseded, though Karajan's narrower range of tempos and obsolute sense of where the music is going will still be preffered by some.
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64by Richard Strauss Performer:
Anton Holzapfel (Organ)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1911-1915; Germany Date of Recording: 10/2000 Venue: Live Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria Length: 52 Minutes 56 Secs.
Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59: Suiteby Richard Strauss Conductor:
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1909-1910; Germany Date of Recording: 10/2000 Venue: Live Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria Length: 24 Minutes 10 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
BEST YETJuly 12, 2013By W. RAWLS (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)See All My Reviews"I previously favored the Previn/Vienna release of Eine Alpensinfonie on Telarc, but this has supplanted Previn as the best I've heard so far. Tried to buy SACD version on Amazon but their ordering is fouled up and buyer gets Karajan/Berlin. Impossible to get from Amazon, either here or UK. When I received and played this, my immediate comment was, WHO NEEDS THE SACD? The audio quality is easily the equal of the performance. Buy the SACD if you can find it from a reliable source, but you don't really need it. This Redbook version is more than adequate."Report Abuse
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