Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
PERFORMER: Dresden Staatskapelle/Giuseppe Sinopoli
I wonder if conductors would be quite so keen to tackle An Alpine Symphony these days if Strauss had stuck with his original title of The Antichrist? Like Zarathustra and Ein Heldenleben, this massive tone poem concerns the Nietzschean (and un-Christian) themes of ‘moral purification through one’s own labour… and worship of nature, eternal and magnificent’, in this case via the ascent and descent of a great mountain. The Dresden Staatskapelle premiered the piece in 1915, and this new account was recorded live in 1992 at the orchestra’s famous Palm Sunday Concert. The performance is certainly an impressive one, though ensemble is not always perfect (the off-stage horns will have regretted their fluffed top notes). To the conductor falls the task of shaping the 50-minute structure into a seamless whole, and Sinopoli manages this well. But fans of the famous 1981 Karajan recording will notice Sinopoli’s lack of freedom at certain key stages in the journey. The awe with which the climbers are struck when they reach the summit, and the magnificence of the view don’t quite come off as they might. DG’s recording team copes admirably, though I noted a certain glacial quality to the sound at times (no pun intended); and full marks for providing an index point for each of the score’s 22 descriptive headings. Stephen Maddock