Another dose of what I’m afraid I’ve come to regard as high altitude kitsch, with Strauss marking time in the score until the next good idea. I’ve never warmed to An Alpine Symphony. While the best bits stop just short of the sublime, the other parts teeter just short of banality. Even the “heart-stopping” nine to twelve horn sunrise fanfare always reminds me, bizarrely, of Caro mio ben. Any performance used to be a major event, now, every man and his dog has a go at it.
That said, it’s good to hear a fine orchestra like the MSO in full cry. Sir Andrew Davis and his forces enter a crowded field, up against Previn, Welser-Möst, Thielemann and Karajan. The MSO plays well, although the strings lack the last ounce of sheen teased out by the aforementioned maestri. The woodwind (oboist Jeffrey Crellin especially) and brass contributions are distinguished, but, I found the opening, with what one ecstatic critic described as “Rheingold-like susurrations”, a little lacking in mystery and tension.
The incidents which take place during the hike are well handled and the climbers are granite-jawed, blue-eyed Aryans, who’ve been kitted out at Kathmandu, not day-trippers in sensible shoes fretting about whether they’ve remembered to pack the thermos. The glacier episode exudes a real sense of danger. Davis handles the ending well, not drawing it out too agonisingly (it’s not Mahler’s Ninth). Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks is similarly well performed.