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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Richard Strauss - Berliner Philharmoniker · Herbert von Karajan ‎– Eine Alpensinfonie

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This week’s edition of Vinyl’s Revenge starts a short series of Tuesday shares featuring tone poems/concertante works by Richard Strauss.

Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss came to know one another as young conductors in Leipzig in 1887. From then until Mahler's death in 1911 (the year of the first performance of Der Rosenkavalier) they kept in touch. Mahler himself described their relationship as that of two miners tunneling from opposite directions with the hope of eventually meeting. These were two men who were as antithetical in their musical means and goals as in their temperaments and personalities, but who exercised a strong fascination for one another. Mahler conducted Strauss's Sinfonia Domestica in 1904 and, in turn, Strauss's championed Mahler's music, especially the Second and Third Symphonies.

Strauss’ penchant for "music as life" type pieces wholly justifies this Alpine Symphony, but one has to acknowledge that he was probably thinking about Mahler's death when he wrote it (or, at any rate began it); the very end, with the orchestra developing the thick sound of darkness and as the marching theme lays down and goes to sleep can be very moving that way (also, the cowbells were a further hat tip).

This expansive work has a very detailed program depicting the experiences of eleven hours (from daybreak just before dawn to the following nightfall) spent climbing a mountain. The score calls for around 115 players, including the operator for both the wind and thunder machines. Amongst the other features are an expanded wind choir, a huge brass group, including 12 off stage Horns , 2 harps and a string compliment of 64, the so-called "Wagner 64”.

This week’s recording (winch I acquired in vinyl DDA format) is the first digital rendering of the work and features Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic. The work achieved great critical success; you can attend to the work's symphonic structure, contemplate its deeper meaning, or wallow in Strauss' orchestration--or you can do all three at once, as Karajan seems to in this performance. Neither the work itself, nor the mountain it depicts, seem quite as majestic in the hands of other expedition leaders.

Happy Listening

Richard STRAUSS (1864 –1949)
Eine Alpensinfonie, tone poem for orchestra, op. 64 [TrV 233]
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conducting

Label: Deutsche Grammophon ‎– 2532 015
Format: Vinyl, LP (DDA)
Released: 1981


Attached Thumbnails - Click to enlarge Attached Thumbnails - Click to enlarge Harpsichord, Clavichord, Spinet,...-r-3544550-1335534495-jpeg