11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Solid, full-blooded, big-boned and radiant Alpine journey.,
This review is from: Richard Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie (LSO/Haitink) (Audio CD)Alpine Symphony....LSO....Haitink. Who would have thought? If you find this particular combination a bit puzzling and are wondering whether it actually produces good results, puzzle no longer. This is a wonderfully coherent, symphonic reading of Strauss' tone poem, which does not apologize for being big-boned when it needs to be (check out the bass tuba and trombones at the climaxes), but also manages to create a lucid and well-connected musical line which spans the whole work. In too many performances of this piece, one is often aware of travelling from episode to episode, with all the disjointedness that this entails. Haitink, to his credit, is the most discerning of musical judges in this respect. Rarely have I heard a recording and thought "this just sounds right, bingo!".
One may have a personal preference for the burnished gold of the Viennese brass and strings or the power and mighty grandeur of the Berliners under Karajan - but make no mistake, the LSO, in this recording, are on a level playing field with the sophisticated Europeans. In fact, I would say that the brass in the opening section are even more accomplished. The sound is amazingly soft, but also focused and mysterious at the same time. There is some very sensitive playing here as well - particularly in the meadows. The final approach to the summit is gloriously radiant and very well prepared (no sudden climaxes here). Haitink also manages to create a palpable sense of tension in the calm before the storm. The storm itself is very impressive (you might want to play this when the family and neighbours are out!) and the gradual descent into serenity is brought off with a natural elegance of phrasing and some wonderfully rapt playing from all departments. Haitink's rock-solid, unfussy way with this piece really pays dividends - the details are stunningly executed whilst the bigger picture is very well controlled.
For an interesting comparison, listen to Welser-Most's recording with the virtuosic Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. This is an interpretation which is very different to the LSO recording, focusing instead on a more fleet-footed and cinematic approach (clocking in at a swift 45 minutes compared to Haitink's 50). Both are equally valid of course and more importantly, both performances are top-class.
As stated by the previous reviewer, the sound quality in this LSO Live release is surprisingly good, considering it's the Barbican. The listener is offered a clear and detailed sound-stage but with enough air around the orchestra to provide some atmosphere. Personally I thought the offstage hunting horns were just the right dynamic (they are offstage after all and as a result one is aware of the 'outdoor' effect that is surely intended here, almost like the vast distances in the Bavarian Alps). In general, this is a very impressive live recording of what must have been a memorable evening.