Ein Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
Christian Thielemann, cond.
Over the course of twenty-two discrete sections across about 50 minutes of music, Strauss’ monumental Ein Alpensinfonie—the last of his great symphonic poems—depicts about twelve hours’ time spent clambering about in the Alps, from dawn to dusk. He had planned the work for years before being inspired to commence the orchestration in part by the death of Gustav Mahler.
The work is one of Strauss’ largest in terms of the forces required, calling for around 125 musicians. Although the music does not follow conventions of symphonic form, Strauss appears to have thought of the work as a proper “symphony,” the construction of which he characterized as less pleasing than “chasing cockroaches.” A recording by von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic became the first compact disc ever pressed commercially in 1981.
Liszt - Les préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3
Herbert von Karajan, cond.
Liszt’s third symphonic poem has remained his most popular one—a concert staple in its own right, it has also been appropriated by Flash Gordon.
The work had an unusually complex genesis: it is derived from a set of choral pieces which Liszt orchestrated in conjunction with Joachim Raff, to which a separate overture was later joined. The poetic inspiration for Les préludes, penned by Lamartine, is a meditation on the ephemerality of life and the timeless mystery of death. Already in this work, Liszt was beginning to shape his idea of continuous thematic development on large scales as an alternative to traditional formal schemes.
(photo by anderto)