Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vienna Philharmonic: Richard Strauss' Eine Alpensinfonie



The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs Richard Strauss' Eine Alpensinfonie ("An Alpine Symphony'), opus 64, Christian Thielemann conducting. The piece is a musical portrayal of a climbing party's alpine ascent and descent; it shows a lot of vivid imagination. Strauss completed the work, a tone poem, in 1915. This work was first performed by the Dresden Hofkapelle, the court orchestra, in Berlin on October 28, 1915, with Strauss himself at the podium.

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This work by Strauss is not on everyone's list of musical pieces they love or even appreciate. Consider what Daniel J. Wakin of The New York Times writes in "A Walk Up the Wild Side of the Alps" (April 13, 2012):

The symphony is the last and one of the least played of the Strauss tone poems. Its highly descriptive story of a climb up a mountain has struck some as a little too cinematic. Sniffy early listeners heard bloat and simplistic melodies and took note of the literal sound effects of a score that calls for cowbells and thunder and wind machines.
But for many Strauss fans this spectacular sonic depiction of an Alpine outing and its exhilarating climaxes are irresistible. And the naysayers overlook deeper meanings, including the exaltation of nature. “It’s actually about our spiritual existence,” the conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy said in a recent telephone interview.

That might be enough for some persons to like the work, or equally, to detest it.

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