Because the Saito Kinen Orchestra annually performs at a summer festival held in the Japanese Alps near Matsumoto, the choice of Richard Strauss' immense Alpine Symphony for this 2012 recording seems quite appropriate for the occasion. Led by Daniel Harding, the ensemble of exceptional orchestral musicians from around the world takes on one of Strauss' most imposing scores, and the power, dynamic range, and physical stamina required to make this work succeed are well within the orchestra's abilities. Strauss' musical depiction of the Alps is a sprawling affair, more properly regarded as a tone poem rather than a symphony in the conventional sense, and the effect of the large orchestra of approximately 125 players must be overwhelming to convey the enormous mountains, the volatile weather, the different times of day, and other imagery. Harding controls the orchestra with a steady hand, and his interpretation is expansive without being exaggerated. The sound of the live performance is a little unbalanced, favoring the brass over the strings and woodwinds, and the live recording is just a little unfocused, leaving some details hard to distinguish in the mix. Even so, this recording has excitement and passion going for it, and the spirit of high adventure conveyed in the music is impressive.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Alpine Symphony, Op. 64|