Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

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Lance
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Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Lance » Mon Sep 08, 2014 1:36 pm

I have many fine recordings of Strauss's Op. 30. I am using the 1953 Decca recording of Clemens Krauss/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that is probably the finest MONO recording of the work ever made followed by Reiner's/Chicago Symphony on RCA. The first segment, "Sunrise," continues to be an ear opener ... "and then there was light!"

Who else conductor-wise do you think is right up there among the best presentations on discs?

These I currently have and mostly enjoy:

•Clemens Krauss, Vienna Philharmonic - Decca
•Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic - DGG
•Steinberg, Boston Symphony - DGG
•W. Sawallisch, Philadelphia Orchestra - EMI
•Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra - RCA [both versions, 1954, 1962]
•Tennstedt, London Philharmonic - EMI
•Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony - RCA
•Maazel, Bavarian Radio Symphony - RCA
•Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic - Testament (Live Salzburg)
•K. Böhm, Berlin Philharmonic - Testament (Live, mono)
•Koussevitzky, Boston Symphony - AS Disc (Live 1947)
•Fiore, Dusseldorf Symphony - Hänssler
•Mitropoulos, Cologne Radio Symphony - Hunt, Medici Arts (Live 1959)
•Mitropoulos, Concertgebouw-Amsterdam - Orfeo (Live 1960), Q-Disc
•Leitner, Bavarian Radio Orchestra - Orfeo (Live)
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Wallingford » Mon Sep 08, 2014 3:44 pm

Certainly up there too are Koussevitzky, as well as Rodzinski (from the less-than-one season he had with the Chicago Symphony).
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Never mattered we were always ok
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by John F » Mon Sep 08, 2014 4:32 pm

When the Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic recording on London (English Decca) arrived at WHRB, we were stunned by the extraordinary sound of the first two minutes. So was Stanley Kubrik, apparently, as he used this recording for the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I don't care for the rest of the tone poem, and don't have any other recordings, but I don't need to.
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Sep 08, 2014 4:48 pm

John F wrote:When the Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic recording on London (English Decca) arrived at WHRB, we were stunned by the extraordinary sound of the first two minutes. So was Stanley Kubrik, apparently, as he used this recording for the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I don't care for the rest of the tone poem, and don't have any other recordings, but I don't need to.
I agree, I have some other recordings, but ones like Sinopoli where the interpretation is very different.

Personally, I don't care for any of his Tone Poems, I prefer Dvorak's.
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by josé echenique » Mon Sep 08, 2014 4:52 pm

For a modern digital recording I like Blomstedt with the Dresden Staatskapelle on DENON. Well recorded too.

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Ted Quanrud » Mon Sep 08, 2014 7:14 pm

Hi Lance --

Just by coincidence, I aired Also sprach Zarathustra on last night's radio program. Although I have at least a half dozen or more versions, I instinctively reached for the 1954 Reiner/CSO, a favorite since I first heard it more than 50 years ago. After reading your post today, I have spent several hours listening to some of the others. As they say, I have to get out more often. The Kempe/Staatskapelle is superb, as is the Zinman/Zurich Tonhalle (that 7-CD Arte Nova set of most of Strauss's major orchestral works is an outstanding bargain). I very much enjoyed the Tennstedt/LSO and the Karajan/BPO and Karajan/VPO. The Mitropoulos/Concertgebouw is compromised by less-than-ideal sound. In the end, however, Reiner is still my first choice.

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:39 pm

Lance wrote:I have many fine recordings of Strauss's Op. 30. I am using the 1953 Decca recording of Clemens Krauss/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that is probably the finest MONO recording of the work ever made followed by Reiner's/Chicago Symphony on RCA. The first segment, "Sunrise," continues to be an ear opener ... "and then there was light!"

Who else conductor/wise do you think is right up there among the best presentations on discs?
Reiner's 1954 version is very good, tho not recorded in the best sound. His '62 version is one of the All-time All-Stars of orchestra recordings - brilliantly conducted, played and recorded. I have this one in several versions - but IMO, the best are the RCA Papillon Collection, and the Japanese Living Stereo version. Both preserve the clarity and brilliance of the performance - the sheen of the strings, the full, brilliant quality of the brass, and full-throated woodwinds...

a somewhat newer version - Solti/CSO/Decca - is really first-rate also - tremendous playing, with Solti's driving style very effective. again wonderful clarity revealed in Strauss' richly orchestrated score.

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by barney » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:02 am

John F wrote:When the Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic recording on London (English Decca) arrived at WHRB, we were stunned by the extraordinary sound of the first two minutes. So was Stanley Kubrik, apparently, as he used this recording for the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I don't care for the rest of the tone poem, and don't have any other recordings, but I don't need to.
I haven't listened for years, during which time I have grown to appreciate R Strauss very much more,but the last time I did, my opinion mirrored your own. Very sad that in a relatively long work, all the interest is over after a minute and a half. I should have another go now.

barney
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by barney » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:04 am

I have about 10 versions, only the first couple of which I collected intentionally. The rest are in sets or recordings I acquired for other reasons.

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by CharmNewton » Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:22 pm

John F wrote:When the Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic recording on London (English Decca) arrived at WHRB, we were stunned by the extraordinary sound of the first two minutes. So was Stanley Kubrik, apparently, as he used this recording for the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I don't care for the rest of the tone poem, and don't have any other recordings, but I don't need to.
The movie made this section of the work very popular. I was a rock 'n roll listener at the time as were my friends and we loved it. BTW, it wasn't the Karajan recording on the soundtrack but Karl Bohm's with the Berlin Philharmonic.

John

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by CharmNewton » Tue Sep 09, 2014 8:42 pm

Heck148 wrote:
Lance wrote:I have many fine recordings of Strauss's Op. 30. I am using the 1953 Decca recording of Clemens Krauss/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra that is probably the finest MONO recording of the work ever made followed by Reiner's/Chicago Symphony on RCA. The first segment, "Sunrise," continues to be an ear opener ... "and then there was light!"

Who else conductor/wise do you think is right up there among the best presentations on discs?
Reiner's 1954 version is very good, tho not recorded in the best sound. His '62 version is one of the All-time All-Stars of orchestra recordings - brilliantly conducted, played and recorded. I have this one in several versions - but IMO, the best are the RCA Papillon Collection, and the Japanese Living Stereo version. Both preserve the clarity and brilliance of the performance - the sheen of the strings, the full, brilliant quality of the brass, and full-throated woodwinds...

a somewhat newer version - Solti/CSO/Decca - is really first-rate also - tremendous playing, with Solti's driving style very effective. again wonderful clarity revealed in Strauss' richly orchestrated score.
I'm with you on the 1962 recording. The orchestral sound has tremendous weight. Reiner's string sound was as beautiful as any ones, but rarely mentioned as such. I think the Japanese RCA sounds just slightly better than the Papillon issue and has the Janigro/Reiner Don Quixote as a filler. The 1954 recording sounds bets on the Hybrid SACD mastering (I can speak for the SACD layer but not the normal CD layer since my c 1991 CD player will not recognize the disc).

BTW, this work has always been a big hit in Chicago, going back to its American premiere in 1895. It proved so popular that the subscribers voted for it to be repeated on the final programs that season.

John

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Wallingford » Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:06 pm

Ormandy also did a fine take on it (Columbia, mid-60s).
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by david johnson » Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:53 am

the later ormandy/philly emi lp is also very fine :)

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Heck148 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:14 am

Boulez also made a recording of ASZ with CSO in 12/96. This has some very good features, but overall, I do not rate it as highly as Reiner '62 or Solti.

DG's sound is not as clear or detailed as RCA's or Decca's, at times the climaxes are quite congested, nd detail is obscured. There is some delicious playing of course, and some real highlights [opening] but I must take issue with some of Boulez' conducting...he often favors slower tempi, which is not a necessarily bad thing, but sometimes it is just too slow, too pedestrian. Solti usually opts for quicker tempi, and he presses forward....Reiner takes some slower tempi than Solti, but Reiner always provides momentum and forward thrust, even at slower tempi [ie - Meistersinger I Prel, Bydlo from Pix @ Exhib] - where Reiner moves forward with inevitable motion, Boulez seems to plod. I generally enjoy Boulez' conducting, he's done many terrific recordings, but this time, not quite....
Reiner '62 remains my favorite, with Solti a close runner-up...
Last edited by Heck148 on Sun Sep 14, 2014 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by John F » Sun Sep 14, 2014 12:16 pm

I wonder what Boulez was doing conducting Strauss tone poems at all. It's a kind of music for which he has no aptitude and of which he has had contemptuous things to say. Well, we'll know he has completely abandoned his professed standards when he starts conducting Tchaikovsky. :)
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 7:52 pm

John F wrote:When the Karajan / Vienna Philharmonic recording on London (English Decca) arrived at WHRB, we were stunned by the extraordinary sound of the first two minutes. So was Stanley Kubrik, apparently, as he used this recording for the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey." I don't care for the rest of the tone poem, and don't have any other recordings, but I don't need to.
I have avoided this thread, because I assumed it would be a recording fest, and while I don't object to those, I'm not very good ad them. Now I see that to some extent the work is being considered on its merits.

In contrast to John F, I find the work marred only by its famous but meretricious opening, and yes, I know it is repeated within the composition.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by RebLem » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:59 pm

Reiner 54, Bohm 58, and Kempe for me.
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:11 am

I enjoy ASZ as a work...I do like the Strauss Tone poems as a whole. They are fun to listen to, and to perform...with strauss there is always lots of flamboyant orchestration, glitzy, even...he would have been outstanding as a Hollywood film composer...in fact many of the leading proponents of that genre show quite obvisous evidence of Strauss' influence.
ASZ isn't just about the opening....tho it certainly starts "big". I like how Strauss uses the basic themes over and over throughout the work, in different formats and settings...

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:43 am

Heck148 wrote:he would have been outstanding as a Hollywood film composer...in fact many of the leading proponents of that genre show quite obvious evidence of Strauss' influence.
Oh, John Williams wouldn't exist without Death and Transfiguration. Thanks for posting that because I was thinking of something along those lines myself.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Heck148 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:31 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Heck148 wrote:he would have been outstanding as a Hollywood film composer...in fact many of the leading proponents of that genre show quite obvious evidence of Strauss' influence.
Oh, John Williams wouldn't exist without Death and Transfiguration. Thanks for posting that because I was thinking of something along those lines myself.
Yup, John Williams immediately springs to mind - the leitmotifs, the orchestration, the programmatic content, etc, etc...
Can you imagine what Strauss would have done with "The Ten Commandments" or "Ben-Hur"?? :)

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:45 am

Heck148 wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
Heck148 wrote:he would have been outstanding as a Hollywood film composer...in fact many of the leading proponents of that genre show quite obvious evidence of Strauss' influence.
Oh, John Williams wouldn't exist without Death and Transfiguration. Thanks for posting that because I was thinking of something along those lines myself.
Yup, John Williams immediately springs to mind - the leitmotifs, the orchestration, the programmatic content, etc, etc...
Can you imagine what Strauss would have done with "The Ten Commandments" or "Ben-Hur"?? :)
Or "2001: A Space Odyssey." ;)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Lance » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:59 pm

First post updated with CD listings.
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Re: Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra CDs

Post by Wallingford » Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:53 pm

One also mustn't forget the composer himself, with the VPO in '44.

Unlike his oftentimes slapdash recordings for Polydor in the 20s, Strauss was fully ON in these concert performances (including the only perfect Don Juan I've heard).
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
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