LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Eine Alpensinfonie; Don Juan
PERFORMER: BBC SO/Norman Del Mar, John Pritchard
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91572 ADD
Even as an ardent and less discerning Prommer of yesteryear, I found Del Mar’s Alpine Symphony painfully short of the sublime, and with Mravinsky’s faith in an elusive spiritual dimension still resounding (see Special Editions), it can only seem the more so. The first obstacle is the scrawny BBC Symphony string sound of the early Eighties: these feebly striding humans at the start of track three could hardly climb a tree, let alone a mountain. Then there are Del Mar’s sometimes ludicrous sudden spurts as the mountaineers pass forest and meadow, finding him uncomfortable with Strauss’s vein of healthy rhapsodising. Only the summit sequence and the epilogue breathe a natural air, and this issue’s real value is to commend the Albert Hall as the perfect home for so thickly padded a score.
Glaring errors – the BBC oboe’s made-up phrase just before ‘Elegy’ or the organ’s premature chord-change beneath the woodwind’s sunset song – would matter less in a classic performance; but there are finer records of Del Mar’s Straussian credentials. A better choice, easily available to IMP, would have been Pritchard’s broad and noble interpretation of the same work; as it is, his smoothly paced Don Juan lacks the vital ingredient, sensual passion, though the horns (as in the Alpine Symphony) blaze splendidly at the crucial point. David Nice