Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie; Don Juan

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LABELS: Decca Ovation
WORKS: Eine Alpensinfonie; Don Juan
PERFORMER: San Francisco Symphony/Herbert Blomstedt
CATALOGUE NO: 466 423-2 Reissue (1990)
The rather soft, warm San Francisco string sound and its gentlemanly brass division mean that some of Strauss’s more jagged mountain peaks are lost in cotton-wool clouds; but Blomstedt’s Alpine Symphony remains a very serious proposition. He grasps its opulent symmetry by giving generous space to the melodic rhapsodies on the way to the summit and the mysteries of the storm-brewing afternoon after a very refulgent high noon. It amounts to one of the longest interpretations on disc, but there’s never any loss of purpose: long, arching lines are purposefully moulded and sound effects are always poetically refined. This is an altogether less bullish mountain expedition than Decca’s previous bargain-price version from Solti. Don Juan, which shares the Alpine Symphony’s minor-key end, is unusually philosophical, too: the oboe cantilena at its heart is deeply moving and the shadows of the grave stretch long and cold between the revels. David Nice