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Alpine Symphony

Wit Staatskapelle Weimar , Strauss R. Audio CD

Price: CDN$ 9.93 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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1. Night
2. Sunrise
3. The Ascent
4. Entry Into The Wood
5. Wandering By The Stream
6. At The Waterfall
7. Apparition
8. On Flowering Meadows
9. On Alpine Pasture
10. Straying Through Thicket And Undergrowth
11. On The Glacier
12. Dangerous Moments
13. On The Summit
14. Vision
15. Mists Rise
16. The Sun Gradually Darkens
17. Elegy
18. Calm Before The Storm
19. Thunderstorm And Storm, Descent
20. Sunset
See all 22 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Product Description

Product Description

Staatskappelle de Weimar, dir. Antoni Wit

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Brass: Richard Strauss in the Alps ...from Weimar June 29 2008
By Timothy P. Koerner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony was the last of his colorful tone poems. A wonderful work it is. Tracing a journey through the Alps, the music is immediately and continually appealing through all of its 54 minutes.

If you have never heard this symphony, you are in for a treat, especially if lucky enough to hear this recording of it. Yes, it is a rather lengthy piece, but it will not fail to hold your interest, trust me.

But it's not just the great music alone. That's because the orchestra here plays as if it were one of the world's finest. Listen to the superb brass playing in track 13 (on the summit/auf dem gipfel). The horn section (numbering 20 in this music) is always extremely important in any R. Strauss orchestral work. Here the horns are brilliant, and their other brass colleagues are with them all the way. They all play their hearts (and lips)out.

After listening to this cd a few times, I wondered about two questions. First, why has the Staatskapelle Weimar not been recorded more frequently, and secondly, why is the conductor in this record (Antoni Wit) not the music director of one of the world's major orchestras? (The latter question is not meant to belittle in any way his current orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, which I have heard on other Naxos recordings. They are very good.)

Bottom line here: attractive music, superbly performed, and brilliantly recorded -- and at a budget price. I own at least 9 other recordings of this symphony; I love it. But this Naxos cd contains as fine An Alpine Symphony as you will find for the money. Grab it now before someone figures out its true worth and doubles the price.

Tim Koerner
June 2008
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very musical interpretation, with a wonderful youth orchestra Nov. 19 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
What is immediately apparent about Welser-Most's live performance of the Alpine Symphony is that he avoids all bombast and over-inflation. Record companies invariably use this massive tone poem from 1911, the last written by Strauss, as a sonic blockbuster. But instead of making it sound like second cousin to Also Sprach Zarathustra, Welser-Most makes it sound like first cousin to Rosenkavalier: textures are light and refined, phrasing emphasizes poise and finesse. Tempos are often brisk, and there is lots of colorful scene painting in the storm section near the end. Nobody's trudging up this mountain. They scamper as restlessly as Till Eulenspiegel until the grandeur fills them with awe.

Taking a refined approach may seem like underplaying, but after the first four minutes or so, one is swept away by Welser-Most's conducting. This is the most dramatically alive Alpine Symphony since Karajan's classic account from the early Eighties. The orchestra is actually not professional, although it plays with considerable virtuosity. The Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra was founded in 1986 by Claudio Abbado to serve as a showcase for leading music students from all over Europe (they are as shining as the Deutsche Junge Philharmonie, which is similarly constituted.)

All in all, this CD gave me a great deal of musical pleasure, although EMI's sound is a bit constricted--it doesn't give us the impression of a sweeping mountain landscape the way Telarc did for Previn and the Vienna Phil.--in other ways the sonics are very clear and detailed. Incidentally, I find myself admiring Welser-Most more and more. With luck he will be making many more recordings at this high level of musicality.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Widely regarded internationally as best currently available performance. July 19 2009
By Bryan Leech - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Strauss was a child prodigy, already composing extensively throughout his teens. Although he composed in most genres, the early part of his career was notable for his orchestral works, and this is the period from which most of the famous symphonic poems emerged, often calling upon large orchestral forces. He then moved his emphasis to opera, and it was after one of his later and most famous operas, Der Rosenkavalier, that he returned to compose one of his greatest, and certainly his longest, "symphonic poems" - the Alpine Symphony (it is notable that after the first performance, Strauss commented "now I have finally learned how to orchestrate". It is also notable that Strauss never had any extensive formal training in music!) Enough on context, let's examine this wonderful performance.

Strauss specified an orchestra of 135 to 150 players, with about 20 forming an off-stage ensemble, basically brass, plus extensive percussion and a pipe organ. But he only uses the full forces at times; he mainly wanted these forces to allow an extensive coloristic canvas.

Before going any further, let's dispel a couple of myths. The work is seen by most listeners (and quite a few CD booklet writers, AND the official Amazon reviewer) as a tone poem consisting of a large number of linked episodes, claiming it should not be called a symphony. While there is no denying the episodic nature of this programmatic work, study by some musicologists has revealed a loose but definite underlying four-movement symphonic structure. This is subtle and it is more common to identify six symphonic sections. The main point is that there exists an underlying, musically unifying, symphonic structure. Strauss fully knew what he was doing when he called this work a Symphony.

Throughout the work, Strauss identified various points with markers, to help correlate the "story" with the music. These are not intended to separate the music into sections, in the way the separate movements of a symphony are identified, or even the 'numbers' of a ballet (although it is coming closer in this case), are defined, especially relevant when the movements of such works are linked. Consequently, there is a level of arbitrariness in identifying these markers. Currently available recordings show anything between 17 and 25 such reference points, with 22 being the most popular number, (with Strauss's own performance electing to indicate 20 such reference points). The 22 reference points indicated on this recording are completely consistent with other similarly annotated recordings, which is quite correct according to the score.

Enough of the lecture!

Turning to the performance, I was most pleasantly surprised. Until now, for me the best performance in relatively modern sound, is the Kempe/Dresden recording from the 70s, later transferred to CD. It always had good sonics, doing justice to an outstanding performance. Since then, some nice performances have come along; good interpretations; good orchestral playing and good engineering. But they have all lacked one thing - the recognition of the subtle underlying cohesiveness of the piece. There has been a tendency to play it as an orchestral showpiece, and nothing more, and so missing some very subtle added depth to make even more of the performance. For me, the Zinman/Zurich Tonhalle version, excellently played and recorded by BMG and released under their Arte Nova label (initially in 20003, then withdrawn, then they realized their mistake and issued it again in 2006), is one of the few performances that has come close to penetrating the full depths of this composition.

Now comes this performance. I have been familiar with Wit's work for many years, and have admired him as an intelligent interpreter, well skilled at penetrating the depths of the work, and well able to control the forces under his command. He plays this work with a clear perception of it as a whole, that is, as a unified, symphonic work, written in the form of linked programmatic episodes. The difference is slight, but recognition of the unifying musical structure gives added strength to the performance. It is still a showpiece, but now we hear a showpiece with some substance (remember, Strauss considered it to be amongst has best achievements).

The big surprise was the orchestra. They play like a top-rank international body, only with a greater sense of musicality than we often now hear from some of the big names. Strings have a lovely warm, silken sheen, the French horns almost made me think of that section on the Vienna Phil when it was at its peak; I give these as examples. As has been mentioned by others, high-quality playing by the brass is needed, and it is delivered. And when the entire orchestra comes together, it is clear that they listen to each other, producing an excellent ensemble sound. But, of course, this work depends on excellent solo playing too, especially from the woodwind. And again, they deliver.

One would need to strive very hard to find an odd place where a minor criticism could be offered. and to do so would be churlish amongst such riches. This ranks among the best available performances. To say which is the best is a personal thing, so I will leave that to the individual. But I can certainly recommend this for your consideration, especially as it is complemented by excellent engineering,something not uncommon with Naxos these days.(Naxos has delivered slightly better sound on a few releases, but they were mainly engineered for audiophile release as an SACD, a format they have decided to discontinue), but still a high standard exists, and the metering on my system shows a normal recording level, reaching a quite adequate dB level on the peaks (despite the comments of a couple of reviewers: perhaps they have been misled by the unusually wide dynamic range). If you are after a recording of this work, make sure this is on your list. One final point: at 54 minutes, it does seem as if the disk could do with a filler. But as the piece fades into the dusk, to have the mood shattered a few seconds later by something else would only spoil things. And remember, it is at a bargain price.

EDIT: I have just completed some further research on this release, and it is very clear that an extremely large number of top critics around the world consider this the best version currently available. So far, I have not found one expert arguing against this opinion, and the bonus of the Gramophone giving it an Editor's Choice award can only give added weight to this reception. But one must allow for different tastes, and some might prefer a slightly different interpretation. There is really no other aspect of this release that is open to criticism.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another sign that Naxos has come of age July 5 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Antoni Wit goes back almsot to the beginning of the Naxos era, when a fledgling budget company managed in short order to grab a 10% share of the entire classical market. Those early recordings of staple works were often ragged, but now that Naxos is a mature company, they directly compete in standard repertoire with excellent sonics and better performances.

This Strauss Alpine Sym. can't stand with the very best from Karajan, Welser-Most, Mehta (his remake with the spectacular Berlin Phil. on Sony) or Previn (with the equally stupendous Vienna Phil.), but it's a sonorous, resounding reading in warm, somewhat resonant sonics that suit the gigantism of the work very well. The Staatskapelle Weimer plays far better than you'd expect from a third-tier German orchestra--only the lower strings lack body, and the violins are a bit short of flash. The assembled fleet of horns osunds fine, as do the wind soloists in general. Otherwise, Naxos can mark a worthy new addiiton to their catalog.

P.S.--The Gramophone picked this CD as a recording of the month for Sept. It ranks as the best budget choice for the Alpine Sym. along with David Zinman's 2004 version for Arte Nova. Having heard both, I feel justified in raising the Wit to five stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Record to Make "Frankly Worse-than-Most" Haters Reconsider Nov. 17 2008
By J. F. Laurson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The 1-star rating (below) for this disc, based on a technical flaw, unduly skews the impression the average rating of 3 stars leaves: This isn't another Blah-Welser-Most recording, this is _not_ water on the mills of those who say he can't rise beyond surface sheen and great sound but ultimately shallow musical or emotional content. This is a terrific recording. And it might well be the recording (the engineers) that contributed in great part to why it is so good: Rarely, nay, never have I heard the Alpine Symphony in such resplendent sound... although a regular Red-Books CD, it's like panoramic 3D sound, gripping like a movie score. Listen to it, and you know where John Williams steals his ideas before he mediocrisizes them. This CD is like going to a movie about the Alps. Very remarkable, indeed.

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