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Strauss: Alpine Symphony; Ravel: Concerto / Mitropoulos, Casadesus

Release Date: 06/24/2003 
Label:  Orfeo D'or Catalog #: 586021   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard StraussMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Robert Casadesus
Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Festival Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony was a Mitropoulos specialty, and listening to this superbly recorded mono broadcast from the 1956 Salzburg Festival it's easy to understand why. He gets through the work in just under 45 minutes, and he plays the whole behemoth with such verve, cohesion, and spontaneity that you would think that Strauss wrote nothing greater for orchestra. It's quite instructive to compare this journey's organically coherent initial stages--the leap into the woods, the cows and waterfalls, the truly slippery dangerous moments--to the soggy and soporific response from this same orchestra that wannabe Straussian Christian Thielemann achieved on his recent DG digital recording.

Mitropoulos even gets more natural
Read more balances than does Thielemann (though not Previn in his gorgeous Telarc recording), and if the Vienna Philharmonic audibly sounds to be hanging on for dear life in places, with some missing cymbal crashes and odd sounds from the winds, they still emerge from this journey triumphantly and joyously. And how many performances of this work make you want to start it all over again from the beginning? Listening to the way Mitropoulos effortlessly sustains the final pages, which so often sound interminable in other hands, offers a veritable clinic in how this music should be played to maximize excitement and maintain its flow right up to the final bar. It's a magnificent performance, plain and simple.

The same may be said for the Ravel concerto, a triumph of sheer will over an orchestra playing music utterly foreign to its normal idiom. Once again, the winds emit some extremely strange sounds, and the players make heavy weather of Ravel's jazzier rhythms; but Robert Casadesus turns in a fabulous performance of the solo part, one that, in spite of a few slips in the final cadenza, comes across as remarkably accurate as well as elegant, flowing, and (in the central section) full of sardonic fun. Dating from a year later than the Strauss, the sonics are every bit as vivid and unobtrusively excellent. Clearly, this is one of the best archival recordings to come along in a very long time, and it's also one of the most convincing tributes currently available to the art of Dimitri Mitropoulos. [8/6/2003]

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday
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Works on This Recording

Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Festival Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911-1915; Germany 
Venue:  Live  Salzburg Festival, Austria 
Concerto for Piano left hand in D major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Robert Casadesus (Piano)
Conductor:  Dimitri Mitropoulos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1930; France 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Venue:  Live  Salzburg Festival, Austria 

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