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Reviews: Richard Strauss: Alpine Symphony, Four Last Songs - Luisi

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Reviews: 5

Site review by Castor November 2, 2007
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Geohominid October 3, 2007 (23 of 25 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by dc October 27, 2007 (10 of 18 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I wanted an SACD version of this work and had tried Albers recording with the Braunschweig Orchestra, which was good performance-wise but recorded at a ridiculously low level. But the performance had something and was involving and the sound was impressively panoramic once you upped the level. (waterfall among the best). When I bought this issue, generously coupled, I did it mainly for the sound. I didn't think it would match Sinopoli's recording. So it has proved. As I write this I am thinking of Sinopoli's summit with the DS's marvellously idiosyncratic brass anc the start to the storm, which is marvellously sinister. However, I can only remember two things of Luisi's performance: complete absence of orchestral character (it may as well be the Cincinatti SO playing), no trills on the horns at the climax ("WHAT!!!"), which is enough to leave this performance alone. The recording is metallic and by no means as involving as Sinopoli's or even Albers for that matter. And also there is the incredibly horrible glitch at the big crescendo in "Beim Schlafengehen". I simply cannot live with this and anticipate it every time. WHY WASN'T THIS RE-TAKEN? The final movement "Im Abendrot" is taken in slow motion (as usual). WHY? Karajan, Fürtwängler and Böhm show how a faster tempo here makes the music so much more exciting and moving. The imagery is of this song is a sunset which disappears into twilight. Karajan recognizes this best of all in his stereo sound (although I do find him a bit slow and lugubrious other movements). I don't like Luisi's singer at all, but that is personal taste. Mono or not, Della Casa is the only one for me, although Janowitz and Flagstad run her a close second. This release is a bit of a also-ran. Would you climb up to a summit with no horn-trills?

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Review by jdaniel August 14, 2010 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The recording is just a marvel; blessedly a touch distant and oh, how Strauss' huge swaths of sound lay so easily on the ear. My past favorites have been Kempe's, for the Dresden's luminous strings, and Strauss style that doesn't beat one over the head, Previn's Philadelphia one-off, for his unusually sensitive handling of the quiet parts, and Blomstedt's for the SFO's fervent, adrenaline-charged, precise and wonderfully-balanced ensemble sound.

Luisi brings it all together, IMHO: absolutely glorious playing from the Dresden, a perfect mix of sound and hall, (engineers resisted spotlighting to indulge those with cheap systems, thank God) Luisi's vividly-apposite sketching of each "hour," (listen to the fervent, fiery string figurations during the "Sunrise" climax when the unison horns take over the descending theme; the fabulously delicate, impressionistic "Waterfall" and "Apparition;" the darting solo trumpets' anxious import during "Dangerous moments;" and the unusually-transparent but still grand and violent "Storm" is absolutely thrilling but doesn't fatigue the ear. Finally, one of the grandest moments in all Strauss is the return of the Sunrise theme in the climax of "One the Summit": Luisi takes things a touch slow so that the grinding horn counterpoint registers's an absolutely rapturous moment. Taken too fast, the jaggedness is flattened-out; taken too slow and not balanced right...the Brucknerian rawness gives way to banality.

Nits to pick? The organ is--shall we politely say--very tastefully "integrated." It's infamous bass-pedal entrance (along with a great bass drum thwack) in "Vision" (?) is a little undernourished, but I can live with that, considering the merits listed above. The bass drum certainly comes into its own during storm and the front to back soundstaging captured by the engineers is particularly gratifying during this section. I listened in two-channel and was constantly amazed by the dimensionality.

This is definitely "old-school" Strauss, that of Krauss and Kempe; what I mean is that the composer's verdant lyricism never takes a back seat, no matter how grand or thick the scoring. This is not Strauss for 15 year olds: I'll never forget as a youth listening to the opening of Kempe's Also Sprach, (having imprinted on the lapidary pile-driving, post 2001 versions of just about everyone else), the trumpet employs a singing vibrato! How dare, how scandalous, how effete! But...said intro--for the first time--sounded like an integral part of the rest of the piece.

One last note, I have to laugh and ask why--5 years after the intro of hi-rez--Sony (at least) makes the "DSD" and "SACD" logo so small! I practically needed a monocle to determine if the vendor sent me the right issue and not standard Redbook!

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Review by Luukas November 1, 2015 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
For me, Richard Strauss's (1864-1949) "Eine Alpensinfonie" [An Alpine Symphony] is an staggering orchestral adventure on the mountains. The huge score contains nearly 130 instruments - such as organ, wind machine, cowbells, offstage brass band and thunder machine.
Staatskapelle Dresden has a long tradition with the work. Rudolf Kempe recorded the piece with the orchestra in 1970s (Warner Classics): the recording has been made with the quadraphonic tapes. The location was the same as here: Lucaskirche.

Fabio Luisi's approach honor this historical background. His vision is powerful, straightforward musical journey with few highlights. The opening "Night" has been covered by mysterious, inauspicious shadow here. After that, the joyful "Sunrise" is an terrific experience: the bright light illuminates the whole valley.
The next movement, "The Ascent", has been always a challenge for the engineers: how to capture the offstage hunting horns realistically? Unfortunately the listening experience wasn't very impressive here: the sound of the brass came from the surround speakers but it wasn't very distant. For this reason my own personal favorite is Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie - Haitink. Strauss was perhaps slightly doctrinaire: is it really worth to use the distant musicians for just forty seconds? Anyway, the experience is always very effective, like a movie without the picture.
The other highlight of the performance is the great thunder scene. The airy acoustics of the church gives its spacious dimensions to this section. Exhilarating performance, then.

Sadly the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording is quite distant and unclear. The term "surround" doesn't reach the best results here: the rears weren't presumably recorded with the full frequency range. So, my other recommendation is this one Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie - Shipway which received the "Orchestral Choice Award" in BBC Music Magazine.
Recommended (but with care).


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