The Philharmonia Orchestra now has its own label, while retaining its association with Signum, and has opted for the alliterative “Santtu conducts Strauss” as the first release, all four works here with a duration of a few minutes longer than the average. Timings are no more than that, though.
Don Juan (nineteen minutes) and Till Eulenspiegel (seventeen) are both studio productions from Fairfield Halls, Croydon, and are superbly recorded by Mike Hatch in March 2022, Isabella de Sabata producing. The former is a little tame, less than dashing, and not helped by some interventionist touches from the conductor such as the ‘holding back’ as early as 0:12. Good things though, such as the playing, and the lyrical moments are expressively turned; what’s lacking is dramatic impulse. And Till is rather restricted in momentum and wit, although there’s an attractive droll swagger at times, and an agile Philharmonia response, but you do wonder about the pause at 8:53, disruptive rather than illuminating, and the closing couple of minutes are indulged beyond themselves.
An Alpine Symphony and Also sprach Zarathustra, based on the annotation, are seemingly compiled from performances at the Royal Festival Hall (September 30, 2021) and at The Anvil (October 1), applause removed, a coupling of works that reminds of Lorin Maazel with this orchestra in one of his final London appearances, a sixty-seven-minute trek through Alpine that was mesmeric (listen below), not a second wasted. Rouvali’s conducting of both is certainly interesting and personal, Zarathustra (thirty-five minutes, relatively standard) and the mountain score (that is more far-reaching than about climbing one: life’s journey) will be reacted to differently by any one listener. Zarathustra is impressive, an expansive reading that sees the work whole, although ‘The Dance Song’ is a little laboured. However, also released today is Roth’s LSO Zarathustra, http://www.colinscolumn.com/lso-live-francois-xavier-roth-records-strausss-zarathustra-debussys-jeux/. And Decca’s recent reissue of Dorati in Detroit includes a selection of splendid Strauss performances, http://www.colinscolumn.com/dorati-detroit-complete-decca-recordings/. Tip-of-iceberg mentions for the Strauss discography is very well-stocked.
An Alpine Symphony (fifty-six minutes) is less cohesive here if undeniably picturesque, vivid and dramatically projected (off-stage horns too close, mind, albeit ‘Summit’ and ‘Storm’ are thrilling). Again, top-notch playing, and this extravagant score also enjoys notable recorded sound (Andrew Mellor, not to be confused with the writer and broadcaster) for a sometimes-precipitate journey (reminding of Solti’s Bavarian Radio recording) that is countered by lingering lyricism, invariably heartfelt and, in conclusion, cathartic. Philharmonia Records SIGCD720 (2 CDs).