R Strauss Eine Alpensinfonie; Salome – Dance of the Seven Veils; Die Frau ohne Schatten – excerpts
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
LPO LPO-0106 101:33 mins (2 discs)
An entire programme of giant symphonic-operatic Richard Strauss might be too much of a good thing, but these three works from three different LPO concerts make a compelling whole. The hyper-perceptive Vladimir Jurowski will surely have noticed that the eeriness before the storm in his Alpine Symphony has much in common with the Empress’s Nightmare in Act II of the opera Die Frau ohne Schatten, composed around the same time.
A second hearing of his extensive and unusual selection, a semi trial-run for performances of the whole at the Met, proves what wisdom and magic there are in it. Unlike Strauss’s own mostly noisy potpourri, this includes some music minus several sequences from all three acts as well as interludes, excepting the rather lovely Schubertian music for Barak the Dyer’s goodness of heart in Act I (the final scene from there with the watchmen makes up for that absence). Excellent solos from cellist Kristine Blaumane and leader Peter Schoeman frame some of the most original music in the opera. And possibly the ever more atonal orchestral outbursts around the Empress’s climactic spoken melodrama were cut from the Met production, as they usually are, so good to have them here, too.
Jurowski’s Alpine Symphony is ideally paced and beautifully balanced, possibly more so on CD than in the dryish Royal Festival Hall, with especially clear ends of the register. There are so many good recordings of it, but this is up there among the best. And I know no more bewitching or exciting performance of Salome’s Dance, either.