It’s very unusual for a composer to write only orchestral music for years and then for the rest of his life compose exclusively operas, but Richard Strauss did just that. The work that breaks this pattern however is the Alpensinfonie, which he wrote after his first four great operas. He loved the challenge of composing this highly visual story, but I think that Mahler’s work also influenced him and the death of Mahler I suspect had something to do with it as well.

The notion of a musical trip in the mountains was personal and rather mundane actually, but since I moved to Bavaria I can relate to it very well. I’ve done these trips and that’s exactly how it goes, every step of the way. It’s a simple idea but it gives him a canvas to be – and I say this in a positive way – very eclectic. Some people have judged this piece as too eclectic, and maybe on a deeper level it doesn’t stand up to the greatest pieces at the beginning of the 20th century, but the craftsmanship is simply fantastic and when somebody has such a mastery of styles and of the compositional process...

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