There have been other magnificent performances of Richard Strauss' Eine Alpensinfonie -- Böhm's, Karajan's, Haitink's, and Previn's leap immediately to mind -- but none has ever surpassed this performance by Rudolf Kempe and the Royal Philharmonic for sheer aural opulence. Taped in 1966 by producer Charles Gerhardt for Reader's Digest records, the stereo sound here is ravishingly beautiful with giddy highs, abysmal lows, endless depths, and staggering immediacy. And that's just the sound; the performance is even better.
Kempe, of course, is a master Strauss conductor whose opera and orchestral recordings have been accepted as canonical for almost half a century, and this Alpensinfonie is as superbly conducted, incredibly colorful, and richly detailed as the rest, but, best of all given the picture-postcard aspects of the work, musically utterly convincing. With the super-virtuoso Royal Philharmonic as his instrument, Kempe creates an Alpensinfonie with the thrills of Karajan and Previn's accounts, with far more integrity plus the cohesion of Böhm and Haitink's readings but with far more energy. Coupled with Alan Civil's robust interpretation of Strauss' first Horn Concerto, this Alpensinfonie deserves to be heard by anyone who enjoys the work or the composer.