Author Topic: jessop's thoughts on Eine Alpensinfonie  (Read 515 times)

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jessop's thoughts on Eine Alpensinfonie
« on: February 08, 2018, 03:26:43 PM »
Instead of filling up WAYLTN with long meandering posts that are already 4 pages in the past within a few hours, I thought I would post my more in depth thoughts in a separate thread. I will post links from WAYLTN to this thread so I don't clutter up that thread with long posts that are hard to find the following day.

Here is one that can go in here:

Generally, the interpretation seems episodic, the music is never quite together nor is it quite anywhere, and loud brASSY CHORDS ARE EXCITING And sound gOOD SO DO IT A LOT JUST BECAUSE. Thielemann enjoys the sound of one phrase at a time, which I think can work if there is any effort in shaping these smaller units more musically because it is a little unfortunate that everything comes off as rather emotionally flat. I think I am beginning to understand more about the musical characteristics of the vienna wieners and Thielemann (name a more iconic duo, i'll wait) and it generally seems to boil down to the following two paragraphs:

The expressive markings in the score are followed as are all the notes, however, none of these separate parts ever come together to create a coherent and musical whole. Sure, there might be a fortissimo brass melody, but the fortissimo and the melody somehow sound like separate ideas that are coincidentally existing at the same time. Meanwhile, there might be something going on the violins, but it sounds like a separate idea made by someone in another room that we just coincidentally hear at the same time. I think that there is potential for the music to sound as if each element of the score and each musical line is heard with clarity and with a level of interdependence on the other parts. What this performance turns out to be is something a little different; there is a sense that each line in the texture exists in counterpoint to others, but only really because of a general lack of ensemble playing. At the best of times the orchestra sounds a little off, but in the more densely contrapuntal and colourful areas of the score it can sound like it is Played on Sight by a Bad Spa Orchestra by the Village Well at 7 in the Morning.

The other thing I notice is how Thielemann spends time on one phrase at a time. If I knew anything about conducting and score preparation I would assume that it is useful to try to understand any underlying musical logic to the composition on the page and how that can be translated into sound. Often, in this piece at least, part of what I really enjoy is how each section flows on from one to the next, making a very convincing point for the existence of every new motif, new orchestral effect and new moment in general. Perhaps I have it all wrong or perhaps I am just asking for the impossible here, but many times throughout the performance on this disc I can hear that Thielemann really has a vision to play each phrase without much in the way of dynamic variation or other kinds of expression within them, so he stacks each moment of the music like a string of non-sequiturs. This is pretty much the opposite of what I enjoy most about this composition, so I can't really use this as a fair criterion to evaluate Thielemann's interpretation. With rubato added—and there are some nice touches of rubato in the expected places—some of the expressively flat (inexpressive?) ends of phrases sound stretched or squeezed or as if the music is suffocating rather than breathing.

I guess they all died on the journey up the mountain or something like that idk.

I do sometimes wonder whether I am 'too harsh' in my evaluations on various interpretations, but really I just try to understand why I don't like something if I notice that I have a negative reaction to it.

I am curious to know other people's thoughts on this recording of Eine Alpensinfonie, if you have heard it.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2018, 11:27:43 PM by jessop »


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Re: jessop's thoughts on stuff he hears.
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 04:23:25 PM »
Another Alpensinfonie

Never heard this one before and this is the first time I have heard anything from this conductor, so I am going in without any preconceived opinions.

The orchestra really sounds very very blended, like one huge body rather than a bunch of individual musicians and this works really really well with some of the colourful orchestral effects that Strauss employs, particularly with the use of the glockenspiel. At Eintritt in den Wald, however, I am reminded that there is still a wonderful transparency in the overall orchestral sound as well where foreground and background lines in the texture are easily heard and balanced well so that no part of the orchestra is overpowering. At this section there is certainly very little freedom to explore slight adjustments to the tempo in an expressive way, as all the expression comes through in the diverse use of articulations. Really, I think every accented note in this whole performance is played in a noticeably different way based on the context each one appears in and I really like that. Am Wasserfall is extremely colourful here, more than most recordings I have heard so far. The instruments in the recording seem to be resonating with each other naturally rather than fading into the background to let the oboes' melody dominate.

Durch Dickit und Gestrüpp auf Irrwegen has a danger of becoming sloppy, but not here. The score is pretty much treated as authority without any real exaggerations or interesting interpretative choices like in Auf dem Gletscher and Gefahrvolle Augenblicke, which follow. It comes across as solid in comparison, but lacking much onward movement that the score suggests. The following two sections on the other hand are exaggerated in articulation and dynamic, extremely clear as well, but with the kind of drive forward that would be appropriate in the previous section. Auf dem Gipfel is glorious, and is Vision, although Vision seems to suffer from a 1st trumpet player that sounds awkwardly out of time and balance with everyone else. The end of Vision presses forward into a crystal clear Nebel steigen auf with a forceful, hair raising tutti and a well developed crescendo.

The sections leading up to Gewitter und Sturm are probably the best executed in the entire performance on this disc. The timpanist is quite enthusiastic for one thing, and that's something I am biased towards already. The already established clarity of texture and execution of orchestral effects and techniques employed by Strauss are at their best here. Unfortunately the boominess of Gewitter und Sturm can be a little overbearing and smothering some of the orchestration at times, but as it progresses it improves. The revisitation of previous themes from the first half of the piece are sometimes a little bit smothered but are noticeably there without being pushed or forced out too much.

A general note about the dynamics and phrasing, there is a tendency here to play everything straight but at the same time the music has a very natural feel the dynamic shaping in longer stretches. Long crescendos and decrescendos are done very convincingly without unnaturally intensifying the music or unnaturally decreasing the real sense of presence of the notes and harmonies themselves. I would find it a little more interesting if the interpretation as a whole featured more mircophrasing, but when it does a bit in Ausklang it never oversteps its boundaries or sounds out of place. The whole winding down towards the final Nacht very naturally releases the music from the dynamic swells towards stillness and calm. The final brass chords begin very distantly and grow a little more present towards the violins' entry and then the orchestra grows distant again, pausing for an almost overdone glissando to the final chord.

I like this recording for how the orchestration comes through wonderfully and the very well considered interpretation of articulation markings, however, where dynamics, phrasing and orchestral balanced are ignored the music noticeably falls flat on what this interpretation has established it can do so well.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: jessop's thoughts on stuff he hears.
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2018, 06:46:30 AM »
Interesting.  Carry on.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot