Gloriously affirming the Salzburg Festival’s long-standing reputation as a supreme musical event, this concert honours one of its founding fathers, Richard Strauss. Renée Fleming, Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra unite for a programme of song, opera and tone poem, genres central to the composer’s extraordinarily fruitful career. Fleming interprets four of his songs with orchestra, including the deeply moving Befreit, and provides a substantial taste of perhaps her finest operatic role, Arabella. New vistas then open as Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic take the spectacular mountain journey mapped by theRead more composer in his titanic Alpine Symphony.
Befreit, Op. 39, No. 4
Winterliebe, Op. 48, No. 5
Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29, No. 1
Gesang der Apollopriesterin, Op. 33, No. 2
Arabella: Mein Elemer!
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
Renée Fleming, soprano
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Christian Thielemann, conductor
Recorded live at the Salzburg Festival, August 2011
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format; LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 84 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
R E V I E W:
R. STRAUSS An Alpine Symphony. Befreit. Winterliebe. Traum durch die Dämmerung. Gesang der Apollopriesterin. Arabella: act I concluding scene • Christian Thielemann, cond; Renée Fleming (sop); Vienna PO • OPUS ARTE 7101 (Blu-ray: 84:00) Live: Salzburg 8/2011
Renée Fleming, Christian Thielemann, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra giving a Richard Straus concert at Salzburg would seem to be a no-brainer for Richard Strauss fans. Put it on your Blu-ray machine, turn off the lights, and surrender to Strauss’s beloved soprano voice and luscious orchestration. Fleming has stated that his music is ideal for her voice. And so it is. Strauss was seemingly addicted to the soprano voice, but you have to wonder if he ever heard an instrument like Fleming’s singing his music. Her rich, creamy tone blends so perfectly with Strauss’s lush orchestration that you have to forgive her when she sometimes tends to over-interpret these songs. Her lovely tone and wistful mood are perfect for the concluding scene from Arabella. Yes, she owns the part with a voice that is even more innately suited to this music than Kiri Te Kanawa’s. Gesang der Apollopriesterin is overwhelming in the hands of Fleming, Thielemann, and the Vienna Philharmonic. Despite sometimes seemingly getting lost in the sheer beauty of the sound of her voice as it relates to this music (who can blame her?), Befreit also shows why Fleming is a great Straussian. The magnificent Vienna Philharmonic plays an equal role in the songs, as it should.
For some, An Alpine Symphony will never be more than a monstrous exercise in musical megalomania (sometimes I wonder whether those critics are afraid to allow themselves to actually enjoy music, rather than view it as a painful academic exercise). After all, orchestration and melody are in many cases just as important as counterpoint and structure (which is not to say that Strauss could not write structurally sound music, even if he was not a symphonist). Anyway, Thielemann seems content to let the orchestra do its thing with just the right amount of control, and the video director discreetly gives us a helpful view of all the soloists within Strauss’s gigantic orchestra, especially the woodwinds. What a pleasure it is to hear the trumpets playing effortlessly without sounding annoying or inappropriately piercing through the instrumental fabric. And those trombone fanfares are stunning. Thielemann’s tempos are generally slow, but he presses forward in the climactic “At the Summit,” thus assuring that his interpretation does not bog down or sound over-indulgent. On the other hand, he slows too much to the point of micro-managing without enhancing the music’s atmosphere for the “Vision,” “Elegy,” and “Calm Before the Storm.” For Thielemann, the true climax appears to be “Sunset,” where he broadens the tempo and unleashes a torrent of luxurious sound. The organ is too subdued in the “Storm,” but blends nicely with the orchestra elsewhere.
The DTS surround sound is ideal for the Alpine Symphony, and the video direction shows plenty of detail without being choppy. My one quibble would be that you never get a complete view of the important percussion section. There are extreme close-ups of drum sticks (but not the timpanist) and the wind and thunder machines, but not the rest of the players. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, and Spanish. What more can I say? It is hard to imagine a better audio-visual feast for Straussians.
Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64by Richard Strauss Conductor:
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1911-1915; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Gorgeous PerformanceFebruary 7, 2014By Don D. (Albuquerque, NM)See All My Reviews"A lovely performance of the Strauss songs, Fleming at her best."Report Abuse
Gorgeous SoundsJuly 12, 2012By D. Stewart (Flagstaff, AZ)See All My Reviews"With a few reservations to take a star away, any Strauss/Fleming fan will need this DVD. From the 2011 Salzburg Festival we are given 84 minutes of what surely is just a part of a complete Strauss concert program. Without any noticeable break, we are given 4 Songs with Orchestra, a brief excerpt from Arabella, and the Alpine Symphony. There is no applause between Songs or before the Arabella aria. Once Ms Fleming has finished and left the stage and the applause dies down, the Orchestra begins the Symphony. I missed the "feel" of a live concert, intermission, etc. Never mind. Ms Fleming is gorgeous to look at and hear her Strauss equipped voice which shows no sign of aging or tiring. Similarly, the Vienna Philharmonic has never sounded better. In the Symphony though, the recording of some of the special effacts, like the cow bells, are seen in action but you cannot hear them. One of the percussionists cranks away furiously on the wind machine, but to the ear it is barely audible. But let there be no mistake, when we get to the Summit the glorious horns of the VIenna Philharmonic are in full cry. Stunning moment, as is that theme that Strauss lays on us. Christian Thielemann is fascinating to watch too, though how the orchestra can follow his beat I do not know, though they obviously do and seem to love him as well. Like me, he seems to be enjoying and approving of all that is happening around him. I have an SACD recording of this Symphony with Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic in which you can hear all the instruments clearly, and where the performance is a bit slower, but this one seems a little bit more realistic despite the lack of special instruments being heard and is probably the one I will most frequently turn to. I guess I can live without the cow bells. My only other reservation that I am impelled to mention are the facial expressions of Ms Fleming that at times become a distraction. I can understand that during the Arabella extract she is more comfortable slipping into the role, but in the Songs it is not necessary. The sound coming from her is so beautiful that it seems a shame to cast any shadow on that. These are all personal observations and I can say that the performances are a must for any Strauss or Fleming fan. Don't mind me, go for it!!! "Report Abuse
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