Richard Strauss

Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony) for orchestra, Op. 64 (TrV 233)

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    While Richard Strauss was famous as a composer of tone poems, he had, at the time of the Alpensinfonie, gone a dozen years without producing a major symphonic work after having shifted his focus to opera. Perhaps it was because World War I was underway and opportunities to produce new operas were fewer that he returned one last time to the tone poem.

    This is a very long work (nearly an hour) of symphonic proportions. Its specific program is the succession of stages in the ascent and descent of a mountain in the Alps. This excursion, however, also stands symbolically for a Nietzschean ideal of attaining one's purpose in life through the strength of one's own will, without reliance on religious belief. Strauss begins the work with a magnificent, hushed effect: Before sunrise the bulk of the mountain becomes visible; the Night motive is heard on hushed horns against a chord that thickens itself note by note until all the notes of B minor are hanging in the air. Sunrise follows the imposing mountain theme. The "Ascent" motive starts the action. The climbers encounter a hunting party (we hear horn calls), cross a brook, go by a waterfall, pass by a meadow (cowbells are heard), get entangled in a thicket, cross the glacier (the "Waterfall" motive is harmonically "frozen" here), get through "Dangerous Moments," and enjoy a glorious feeling when they reach the summit. Now they begin the "Descent" (an inversion of the "Ascent" motive, of course), get caught in a sudden and violent thunderstorm, retrace their steps, and arrive at the foot of the mountain as the Night motive is intoned again.

    The orchestration of the work is opulent. While some find it glorious, others find it puffed-up and bombastic. It uses the rarely encountered bass oboe called the Heckelphone, plus thunder sheets, a specially designed thunder machine, a wind machine, and other unusual effects as part of a 120-piece orchestra.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Nacht (Night)
    2. Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise)
    3. Der Anstieg (The Ascent)
    4. Eintritt in den Wald (Entry into the Wood)
    5. Wanderung neben dem Bache (Wandering by the Stream)
    6. Am Wasserfall (At the Waterfall)
    7. Erscheinung (Apparition)
    8. Auf blumigen Wiesen (On Flowering Meadows)
    9. Auf der Alm (On the Alpine Pasture)
    10. Durch Dickicht und Gestrüpp auf Irrwegen (Straying through Thicket and Undergrowth)
    11. Auf dem Gletscher (On the Glacier)
    12. Gefahrvolle Augenblicke (Dangerous Moments)
    13. Auf dem Gipfel (On the Summit)
    14. Vision (Vision)
    15. Nebel steigen auf (Mists rise)
    16. Die Sonne verdüstert sich allmählich (The Sun gradually darkens)
    17. Elegie (Elegy)
    18. Stille vor der Sturme (Calm before the Storm)
    19. Gewitter und Sturm, Abstieg (Thunder and Storm, Descent)
    20. Sonnenuntergang (Sunset)
    21. Ausklang (Final Sounds)
    22. Nacht (Night)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Seattle Symphony SSM 1023
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Chandos CHAN 20088
    2018 BR Klassik 900157
    2018 ABC Classics ABC 4816754
    2018 ABC / ABC Classics
    2018 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186628
    2018 LPO LPO 0106
    2017 Alto ALC 1346
    2017 BR Klassik 900148
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16026
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 891
    2016 Farao Classics B 108091
    2015 SWR Music 93335
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792686
    2014 Decca
    2014 BR Klassik 900905
    2014 BR Klassik 900124
    2012 Erato / Teldec 2564663163
    2012 Naxos 8501057
    2012 RFP RFP 001
    2012 Col Legno WWE 1CD60022
    2012 BIS BIS 1950 SACD
    2011 Brilliant Classics 9249
    2011 Orfeo C833111A
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779814
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Newton Classics 8802054
    2011 Decca 4782826
    2010 Decca 4782358
    2010 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 Documents / Membran 232597
    2010 Audite 95611
    2010 Naïve V 5233
    2010 Haenssler 9065
    2010 Radio France 5
    2010 LSO Live 0689
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Pentatone Classics 5186339
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Testament 1428
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921757
    2008 Euroarts 2056138
    2008 Urania 345
    2008 EMI Classics 208277
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 2081172
    2008 Eloquence 4800408
    2008 RCO Live 08006
    2008 Music & Arts MACD1213
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4398992
    2007 Coviello Classics 30705
    2006 Haenssler 93140
    2006 Naxos 8 557811
    2006 Arte Nova 984950
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4775296
    2005 Haenssler 93151
    2005 Music & Arts 1167
    2005 Parlophone
    2005 Brilliant 7591
    2005 Avie 2071
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 34569
    2004 Arte Nova 92779
    2004 Chandos 10199
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000020202
    2003 CD Accord 073
    2003 Warner Classics
    2003 Classico 1401
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000020726
    2002 Decca 470 954
    2002 Orfeo 586021
    2002 Brilliant 6366
    2002 Telarc Distribution 80211
    2002 Dutton Laboratories 9720
    2001 Ondine 976
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469519
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 463190
    2000 Music & Arts 1057
    1999 RCA 63265
    1999 RCA 57128
    1999 Angel Records 73614
    1998 Virgin 61460
    1997 Calig 50981
    1996 Melodiya 29459
    1996 Laserlight 24418
    1996 Melodiya 7432129403
    1996 Nightingale 261864
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447 454-2GOR
    1995 Supraphon SU0005-2
    1995 Chandos CHAN7009/10
    1995 Telarc Distribution 80428
    1994 London 440618
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 754610-2
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439017
    1993 Erato 45997
    1992 Archiphon 26/7
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64350
    1992 Koch 37132-2
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 45800
    Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
    Deutsche Grammophon 4000392
    Carlton 569157
    Brilliant 7591/7
    Virgin 422231
    Philips 416156
    Originals 805
    Collins Records 1135