Gustavo Dudamel / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra

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It is surely a natural combination of talents to have Gustavo Dudamel interpret the tone poems of Richard Strauss with the Berlin Philharmonic, but it is still a major coup, no matter how obvious the idea seems on its face. The live recordings of Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, and Don Juan on this 2013 release from Deutsche Grammophon are a true feast for the ears, and the marvelous sonorities and myriad details in Strauss' dense but transparent scores are all on display here. Dudamel is one of the finest shapers of an orchestra's sound, and his expert handling of nuanced timbres and subtle dynamics is everywhere apparent in Also sprach Zarathustra. However, if Till Eulenspiegel or Don Juan are overly familiar to jaded listeners, Dudamel makes them seem just as clear and fresh as Also sprach Zarathustra, and the orchestral colors pop with astonishing vividness and stand out with distinctive presence. While some may discount high praise for this album as hype, hearing it will convince even the most jaundiced skeptic, especially after feeling this CD's irresistable pull and listening to it in one rapt sitting. Dudamel has shown abundant promise in all of his recordings to date, but this Strauss album puts him among the great conductors of our time, without the slightest doubt.

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