STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28. An
What a welcome issue this is! Rudolf Kempe always was considered to be one of the finest interpreters of music of Richard Strauss; his 1970-1965 survey of all of the composer's orchestral works recorded in Dresden has been issued on Angel/EMI, most recently in a 9-CD budget set (REVIEW). This performance of the massive Alpine Symphony, recorded before the EMI, is superior in every way. The Royal Philharmonic has been augmented to meet the score's demands—and they are in top form as they were for other recordings made about the same time including Respighi's Pines of Rome (available on Chesky CD 18) and Strauss's Don Juan (Chesky CD 88). The other plus is the fact that this recording was produced by the team of Charles Gerhardt and engineer Kenneth Wilkinson. Their mastery of the art of recording has never been matched. Working in one of their favorite venues, Walthamstow Assembly Hall in London, Gerhardt/Wilkinson have combined clarity and richness of sound. Off-stage hunting horns after the Sunrise section are perfectly balanced, clearly in the distance but with that wonderful edge horns can and should have. The organ obviously was dubbed in, but blends impressively well with the orchestra, particularly during the finale. This performance of Till Eulensiegel isn't in the class of those by many major orchestras, but the Italian "community orchestra" plays well enough if not with consummate virtuosity. The sound is another early Gerhardt/Wilkinson effort originally issued in a huge budget-priced multiple-LP Reader's Digest set. There is a natural, rich concert hall effect heard here that eludes many modern producers. But Alpine is the reason to have this disk. Rediscovery producers have divided the gargantuan score into four tracks, each with multiple indexes for the various sections; my Sony SCD-XA777ES can access these but I'm sure many CD players cannot. However, with the four tracks it should be possible to access the part you wish to hear without too much time and difficulty.
This CD was mastered from pristine copies of the RCA LP of Alpine Symphony (LSC 2923) and the Reader's Digest LP of Till. It is amazing how much sound was in those grooves, and it has been magnificently transferred onto this CD which is available only from Rediscovery www.rediscovery.us
R.E.B. (July 2003)