Renee Fleming opens this concert and is very much on top form here singing these songs exquisitely with heart-felt expression and meaning. She is also possessed of one of the best-suited Strauss soprano voices on the world stage at present and it really shows in this concert.
The opening three songs were all conceived initially without orchestra and were orchestrated later. In the case of Befreit, Strauss himself provided the orchestration 35 years later and Winterliebe was orchestrated 18 years later. The orchestration of Traum durch die Dammerung was done by Robert Heger. Renee Fleming's opening performance of 'Befreit' is especially moving but the other two songs are also finely done. The concluding song of the four chosen is the rarely performed and powerfully conceived Gesang der Apollopriesterin op.33 /2. This is conceived on a very large and passionate scale and is operatic in impact. This song was originally conceived in full orchestral splendour and this performance is a powerful delivery by all concerned.
There follows the concluding scene from the first act of Arabella which is in the form of a monologue during which the heroine contemplates her marital options. There are two unappealing options and one attractive but little understood option. Arabella's preference for this more risky option is clearly portrayed and once more it receives a passionately excellent performance.
Thielemann has a considerable reputation for his Strauss interpretations and in this concert he is wonderfully supported by the Vienna Philharmonic which provides playing of tonal splendour coupled with technical brilliance. This concluding performance of Strauss's epic Alpine Symphony is very similar to the one he did for CD with the same orchestra issued in 2001. This interpretation, however, seems even finer to my mind and certainly benefits from the added visual effect. The additional splendour and range of the sound recording in DTS ranges from considerable delicacy to almost overpowering majesty at such peak moments as the summit and the thunderstorm. This is a piece that responds very well to surround sound and the extra capacity of Blu-ray makes the most of this spectacular score, and the playing of the orchestra which can be summarised as phenomenal.
The recording, as mentioned above, is of a very high standard to suit with crisp imaging and exceptional tonal range. The sound is clear and revealing of all the score's complexities and is presented in both DTS 5.1 surround and stereo.
This is a particularly fine disc in every way and will surely give enormous satisfaction to all purchasers. It easily supersedes the CD version of the symphony with the same conductor and orchestra. Renee Fleming's contribution sets the scene for a sumptuous musical experience.