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  • Kempe Conducts 3
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Kempe Conducts 3

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Performance 5-Stars; Sonics 4.5-Stars. Overall it's superb! April 4 2014
By Joseph Kline PhD, MD - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This set of three discs from EMI features the conductor Rudolf Kemp conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden in performances of Strauss works including Metamorphosen, Eine Alpensinfonie, Aus Italien, Macbeth, Don Quixote, and Dance Suite from pieces by Francois Couperin. The recordings originated from 1971-1974 and were digitally remastered between 1987-1992.

In general, the interpretations are superb. Kempe was a noted Strauss interpreter and it is easy to see why. He had a clear vision of each piece with an ability to pull out usually glossed over details without losing the overarching thrust of the work. Tempi are slightly quicker than average - fast enough that you don't get lost and slow enough to allow time to savor the landscape painted by Strauss. Instruments sound very natural, and the orchestra boasts exceptional brass and strings. Sound varies somewhat by work, but is usually excellent to superb. Tympani is sonically recessed a bit. In Eine Alpensinfonie, cow bells and other indigenous sounds are an unusual treat and add to the realism of the performance. At times you wish for greater forces in tutti sections, but this is likely a recording deficit.

Metamorphosen is a somber work for string orchestra that Strauss composed as an elegy for Munich and Dresden, cities that were bombed to virtual oblivion by the Allies at the conclusion of World War II. The anguish and lament is easily heard in the sorrowful themes and harmonies so beautifully played by the Dresden orchestra. The perspective is quite close. It is impossible not to be moved by the work, and if you have a heart, you will have also a tear as you listen.

The Strauss Alpine Symphony is superb: exciting, moving, but not quite as weighty as the Karajan/BPO which for me represents the Gold Standard for this work. Alpine Symphony describes a hike in the mountains that Strauss viewed daily while growing up in Bavaria. Kempe shapes the performance so that the listener is translocated to the mountains.

Disc two features two of Strauss's less familiar works, Aus Italien and Macbeth. They are both attractive pieces with the latter the more interesting. Disc 3 includes Don Quixote and Dance Suite from harpsichord pieces by Francois Couperin. As with the other works in this set, both are given excellent performance and sound.

For me, Disc 1 with Metamorphosen and An Alpine Symphony is the only one I will be listening to again and again. The performance and sound place both in the top echelon of recordings. Highest recommendation on par with Karajan who has superior sonics.