R. Strauss Alpine Symphony
The Alpensinfonie is no longer a rarity on disc, but there are still grounds for preferring the famous Karajan version to subsequent digital rivals, especially in this successful remastering. Karajan's sureness of line is always impressive in Strauss and, while the BPO is not at its immaculate best, there is some magnificent playing here. The sound remains rather fierce, but a number of passages have been substantially remixed and the effect is certainly less constricted overall. Perhaps it doesn't matter that the horn theme which floats in with the (still blinding) ''Sonnenaufgang'' (track 2) is not quite aligned with the strings. More worrying is the subtle transformation of the opening phrase of ''Der Ansteig'' (track 3): whereas we used to experience it 'from the bottom up' with the balance favouring the basses, we hear more cellos now—and most of them fluff the B flat! With everything brought into sharper relief, such points of detail did bother me just a little, notwithstanding the undoubted breadth and majesty of Karajan's conception.
Those who find DG's packaging off-puttingly glitzy will probably recoil from Erato's glowing tribute to the Chicago Symphony tradition as penned by Daniel Barenboim himself. His Bruckner cycle for Teldec shows him wonderfully at ease with the ancien regime sonority of the BPO; in Chicago, he is, I think, less successful at recapturing the tensile ardour of Reiner's Strauss. Erato's engineering is partly to blame. The orchestra is well-balanced, yet textures are not really immediate or lush enough, lending an intriguing chamber music quality to the more restrained passages, which may or may not have been Barenboim's intention.
Inevitably, after Karajan, Barenboim's
It should be borne in mind that Barenboim offers a considerable bonus with the symphonic fantasy from