This is the best recording of Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony.
It is a stunning piece of music–an auditory journey up an alpine mountain, complete with sunrise and sunset, and even an impressive, powerful mountain storm.
Karajan was a great Straussian, and this collection, produced by John Culshaw in 1959-60, with the VPO (especially the strings) in superb form, shows him at his most charismatic. Also sprach Zarathustra was a famous early Decca stereo demonstration record, and remains as spectacular as ever. The many-faceted portrait of Till is delectably witty, Don Juan is exciting, racy, and full of sensuality, which is voluptuously shared by the dramatic and sinuous 'Salome's dance'. The transfers undoubtedly recreate the sonic excitement of the originals.
Ivan March, Gramophone
The discography of Strauss’s last opera is not exactly crowded, but the two existing accounts provide formidable competition for any newcomer. First there was Sawallisch, conducting the Philharmonia for EMI in 1957 (unfortunately in mono) and a cast led by Schwarzkopf, Ludwig and Fischer-Dieskau. Then, in 1971, came that other supreme Straussian, Karl Böhm, with Janowitz, Troyanos and (again) Fischer-Dieskau, recorded in Munich for DG. The new Decca set brings together many of today’s leading exponents of Strauss’s roles, dominated, for me, by the unsurpassed Clairon of Brigitte Fassbaender, now alas, never to be heard on stage again following her retirement. Heilmann and Bär make an ardent pair of rival suitors, Hagegård an admirable Count and Halem a sonorous, characterful La Roche. (There is a delightful link with the past history of the opera in the person of Hans Hotter: he sang Olivier in the 1942 premiere, La Roche in the 1957 Sawallisch set, and here, at 84 when recorded in December 1993, a one-line cameo as a servant.) For many, though, the set’s desirability will rest on Te Kanawa’s Countess.