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Eine Alpensinfonie: Karajan Gold, Bpo, Dg, 1981

Reviewing: Herbert Von Karajan Eine Alpensinfonie  |  Rating:
Luther Warren By Luther Warren on
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As I mentioned this recording in a previous review, I thought it only right to create a review of this recording as well. First of all, as you can probably tell if you read the aforementioned previous review, I hold this recording in very high regard. There are however, a few problems, so I will talk about those first.

The most notable "problem" is with the formatting, i.e. the work is broken up into its respective sections (Nacht, Sonnenaufgang, Der Anstieg etc). The result is that the entire CD is comprised of short tracks, ranging from just 17 seconds, to six minutes, two seconds. Now you may have noticed that I used quotation marks around 'problem.' I do this because I actually like having it broken into the short sections, but I can see that many may find it exceedingly annoying, especially in the transitions, as in the case of Nacht to Sonnenaufgang. Nevertheless, I like being able to start play from a certain part of the piece without having to fiddle around with time indexes.

Now that I have that out of the way, I will talk about the few problems in the actual performance. First off, there are very, and I mean very slight intonation and timing spots scattered throughout. There is nothing that will throw you out of the experience, or even really annoy all that much, but if you are listening for them it is possible to spot them.

I also want to adress the horn section in Der Anstieg. You know, the one that always sounds washed out and bad because of how horrendously difficult it is. This section is unique in this recording in that it is both a con and a pro. It is a pro because it is done better than in any other recording I have ever heard, with very sharp sounds being emitted. It is a con because the timing is still very, very slightly off. I admit that its almost impossible to make it sound perfect, and the BPO really does a great job, but even so, the slight difference in timing is enough to throw the listener out of the experience a bit.

Now that I have discussed all of the cons, I will talk a bit about the pros, which are plenty. First off, the interpretation is astounding. Many (not myself) consider Alpensinfonie to be below par with Strauss' other works, however even the most notorious advocate of this theory have admitted that this recording makes it sound like the king jewel of all Strauss' works.

While the interpretation is astounding, the orchestra is even more so. The BPO is really at its height here; the strings are smooth and sweeping, the lower brass is powerful and earth shattering, the upper brass is piercing, the winds are articulate, and the percussion is spot on. All of this culminates to grant Karajan's interpretation the technical prowess that is required to make this recording all that it is.

Finally, being a Karajan Gold album, the mastering is even better than normal DG. Everything is crystal clear, and really comes through. All the right instruments carry at all the right times, creating a very rich and wonderful listening experience. In short then, the mastering is some of the best created.

I hope you can see now why I admire this recording so much. If you like Strauss or Alpensinfonie at all, do yourself a favor and buy this album now. Even if you do not have much experience with either, then I would still highly recommend a purchase. It would be a great way to introduce yourself to an amazing piece, and you would be purchasing one of the best Karajan recordings to boot.