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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece in all its Glory., 10 April 2011
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This review is from: Strauss - An Alpine Symphony (Audio CD)
The Alpine Symphony is most definitely one of my favorite pieces of music ever written, so when I listen to a performance of the masterpiece, I can not help but be harsh in my criticisms. From the recordings I have heard, none had impressed me enough to reccommend it, there was always something that I would pick out and criticise. And those recordings included the popular Solti recording, and the far too quickly paced Franz Welser-Möst recording.
But when I sat down to listen to Antoni Wit's recording, I was surprised that I could not find much to criticise at all!

I was amazed to find a recording that actually followed pretty much all the dynamics Strauss marked down in the score. All sforzandos were played, and with so much power. And the dynamic balance between the orchestra was excellently handled by Wit, with the many layers in Strauss' scoring being heard. Wit's tempo is very well-judged, and it always does work, it may sometimes seem a tad slow compared to some other performance (especially the Welser-Most!) but it is never dragging and always expressing the music to the full. The Staastkapelle Weimar are certainly a wonderful orchestra with very warm, expressive playing throughout the whole piece. Only two or three times where I heard a mistake, an example would be when the horn fluffs the top Eb near the beggining of "Ausklang" or when it feels like the strings "gliss" a little too early on the second to last note of the last movement. But these are criticisms that could be said of so many recordings anyway, as this is a very challenging score to play and not many orchestras get it completely right.
But the orchestra produce a wonderful sound and really do justice to Strauss' masterful orchestration with many details emphasised, for example the wind fluttertongue and string trills are very evident in "Auf der Alm". The orchestra is also very adaptable and portray the different moods Strauss is showing very well. Whether it is the mysterious opening "Nacht", the passion in "Sonnenaufgang", the longing and struggle in "Vision", the sensitive "Elegy", the sinister "Stille vor dem Sturm", the excitment of "Gewitter und Sturm" or the reminiscent "Ausklang".

The sound quality is very good and really allows the wonderful sounds the orchestra are creating to come through. However, at times the lower brass can seem a little harsh and overpowering, but it is normally fine. Apart from that, the sounds quality is excellent.

There are so many points of excellence in this recording which could easily make this a definite performance. I would just like to name a few points that impressed me in particular: the very beggining with the mysterious atmosphere captured perfectly with dark, haunting bassoons and lower brass. The build up to "Am Wasserful" made even more exciting by obeying Strauss' dynamics. All the textures being brought out in "Auf der Alm", the extremely passionate climaxes in "Gefahrvolle Augenblicke" and the extra sinister atmosphere Wit builds in "Stille vor dem Sturm". And not forgetting the beautiful playing in "Ausklang".

Even though I still have a fair few recordings of this masterpiece to listen to, I can tell that this recording is going to be extremely hard to beat. I would extremely look forward to any other recordings Wit and his orchestra made of Richard Strauss, let that be a hint to Naxos as I am sure many other people, after hearing this, would feel the same way.

Daniel Hogan
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Sep 2012 14:49:42 BDT
A thorough, excellent review - most convincing.
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