LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Eine Alpensinfonie; Festliches Präludium
PERFORMER: Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 92779 2
No two performances of Strauss’s Alpine Symphony could be more opposed in their essential vision than Zinman’s majestic mountain scene and Gerard Schwarz’s vivid impressions from the human perspective (reviewed last month), as the 11 minutes’ difference between them suggests. There are honourable precedents for both. Schwarz treads in the athletic, sometimes hasty footsteps of Strauss the conductor in his 1944 recording, a reminder that human high spirits and the sheer joy of mountain-walking ought to play their part in the day’s events; if Zinman has a fault, it’s to miss out on these more flexible and flamboyant dimensions. The ancestors of his more expansive nature-worship are Karajan and Mravinsky. He does the memory of both proud, with a brooding, infinitely atmospheric opening nightscape, a deeply felt panorama on the Alpine peak and a sunset hymn that realises the work’s very serious swing from tranquil recollection of the day’s events to the dying fall of the mountaineers’ once-proud theme.
The dignified, unforced approach of Zürich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, horns nobly to the fore, and the natural concert-hall perspectives of the recording reinforce the interpretation’s Brucknerian majesty. Together they even pull off the feat of dignifying the gargantuan Festive Prelude of 1913, though I can’t imagine many listeners wanting to move on to this massive state celebration after the chastening end of the symphony. David Nice