Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64; Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Lawo Classics LWC1192 75.44 mins
So many excellent Strauss Alpine Symphonies have rolled off the recording production line in recent years, all with something individual to say. Vasily Petrenko’s in his latest invaluable Strauss disc with the Oslo Philharmonic does so majestically, refusing to be rushed either in the great blazes or – most fascinating – as Strauss moves from the panoramic sphere to the personal (the string quartet makes a special impression). Back in the tone-poem pictorials of waterfall spray and cowbell-clanking pasture – Norwegians can understand all this very well – this team is supremely vivid, and later there’s the right contrast between the experimental writing for the eerie weather change and the breaking of a tumultuous storm, high speed at last. The full breadth and depth of Lawo’s consistently vivid engineering come into play here; I don’t mind that towards the first climax of the work the slight closeup on violins makes for a touch of acidity – that’s one way of painting the Alpine scene.
In addition to this most expansive of interpretations, there’s also room for the earlier Death and Transfiguration, where the lugubrious woodwind colours early on remind one that if the composer had discovered the heckelphone or bass oboe – it sounds very clearly at one point in this Alpine Symphony – he would have used it. The tenderness of the childhood reminiscence is the subtle high point here; the transfiguration itself, never easy to float, doesn’t quite have the air around it of the levitational sequences in the longer work. David Nice