Friday, February 26, 2010

Some recordings of Strauss's Alpine Symphony ranked...yes this is how I've spent the last twenty-four hours. In the words of Comic Book Guy - I've wasted my life...:

F-in Awesome:

Staatskapelle Dresden/Rudolf Kempe (As close to perfect as performances get. Every note feels inevitable - except for that stupid vibrating 1st trumpet.)


London Symphony/Bernard Haitink (Just came out. Only a master can challenge Kempe. Haitink has reached that age when some conductors seem to know exactly what to do - and he seems to do very little, but everything goes right.)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons (Luxuriates too much, but truly wonderful playing along with a deeply moving - and yes, slow - interpretation from Jansons)

WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne/Semyon Bychkov (The other end from Jansons. A propulsive, dramatic performance with a scrappy little-known ensemble fearless of getting their hands dirty.)


Staatskapelle Dresden/Fabio Luisi (No other performers dig into the weird sounds with the same relish. But for all its fine moments, Luisi seems to treat it more virtuoso showpiece than as a human statement.)

Bavarian Radio Symphony/Georg Solti (The recording of choice for anybody who doesn't take this piece particularly seriously. Solti doesn't understand the piece. Too fast and much too brutal, but it's undeniably impressive as hell.)

5. Vienna Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos

6. Staatskapelle Dresden/Karl Bohm (Quite sympathetic, insightful pacing from Karl Bohm and characterful playing from the Dresdeners. But messy execution and
synthetic mono sound does it in.)


Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan (I feel dirty listing this anywhere but bad. Like a Kubrick movie, the mastery can never be questioned, but to what purpose? It's cold, humorless, bombastic, sometimes boring.)

Vienna Philharmonic/Christian Thielemann (conductorial douchebag has some ideas. A performance that occasionally spellbinds but can't bother to keep focus for anything with a smaller than ear-splitting decibel level.)

7. Zurich Tonhalle/David Zinman

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