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.