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Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2012

Renée Fleming, Christian Thielemann, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra giving a Richard Strauss concert at Salzburg would seem to be a no-brainer for Richard Strauss fans. Put it on your Blu-ray machine, turn off the lights, and surrender to Strauss’s beloved soprano voice and luscious orchestration. Fleming has stated that his music is ideal for her voice. And so it is. Her rich, creamy tone blends so perfectly with Strauss’s lush orchestration…Her lovely tone and wistful mood are perfect for the concluding scene from Arabella. Gesang der Apollopriesterin is overwhelming in the hands of Fleming, Thielemann, and the Vienna Philharmonic. The magnificent Vienna Philharmonic plays an equal role in the songs, as it should.

What a pleasure it is to hear the trumpets playing effortlessly without sounding annoying or inappropriately piercing through the instrumental fabric. And those trombone fanfares are stunning. Thielemann’s tempos are generally slow, but he presses forward in the climactic “At the Summit,” thus assuring that his interpretation does not bog down or sound over-indulgent. For Thielemann, the true climax appears to be “Sunset,” where he broadens the tempo and unleashes a torrent of luxurious sound. The organ is too subdued in the “Storm,” but blends nicely with the orchestra elsewhere.

The DTS surround sound is ideal for the Alpine Symphony, and the video direction shows plenty of detail without being choppy. What more can I say? It is hard to imagine a better audio-visual feast for Straussians. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, September 2012

The attractive soprano and versatile Renee Fleming, possessor of a particularly beautiful full lyric soprano voice, is featured here. She is singing some very popular songs of Richard Strauss and the concluding scene from the first act of the opera, Arabella featuring the eponymous female character…I found Fleming’s voice well suited to Strauss’ songs. They are well done here.

The “huge tone poem for large orchestra Op.64” is more commonly known as Strauss’ “Alpine Symphony.” There are thunder sheets, wind noise making machines, a Heckelphone (rare bass oboe) and a few other rarities. The tone poem depicts a two day period of time on an Alps mountain near Strauss’ home. The story line quietly begins before dawn, then dawn’s breaking through, sounds of nature including grazing animals, a waterfall, calm before a storm, the storm and so on, including the decent back down the next day. It is more descriptive than overwhelming and handled beautifully between conductor and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording is fully and accurately up to the task.

This is probably a gem of a release thanks mainly to the attractive vocals sung by Renee Fleming.  © 2012 Positive Feedback Online

Ivan March
Gramophone, September 2012

STRAUSS, R.: Lieder / Eine Alpensinfonie (Renee Fleming in Concert) (Thielemann) (NTSC) OA1069D
STRAUSS, R.: Lieder / Eine Alpensinfonie (Renee Fleming in Concert) (Thielemann) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7101D

Although he lived well into the 20th century, Richard Strauss ignored the new modernistic styles of aggressive dissonance and atonalism. He wrote using a rich fund of melody and his reputation with the public remained high, but he was not so well admired by professional critical opinion and his scoring for large orchestra was often regarded as inflated. So it was with the Alpine Symphony, a spectacular, readily descriptive programme work. Today we know better, and its sonic extravagances and ready flow of descriptive melody are relished. Certainly they are in this live performance. Moreover, the conductor, Christian Thielemann, whose reading is satisfyingly spacious, reveals the work’s structural mastery in intermingling and transforming its many themes.

The excellent video director Michael Beyer expertly lays out the orchestra in front of us, following the music sensibly so that we can relish Strauss’s detailed scoring…with excellently balanced sound, the performance projects admirably…The closing Elegy is superbly managed.

Reneé Fleming’s fill-up is also quite splendid…She sings gloriously and the result is ravishing, including the excerpt from Arabella. The four songs, however, were written by Strauss for his beloved wife Pauline. They are essentially love songs and their composer often performed them in duo with her. They would surely have felt that Fleming’s rapturous performances were equally worthy of the music. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Matthew Richard Martinez, August 2012

This Blu-ray release finds all in splendid form with the standout being the Philharmoniker’s fresh performance of Strauss’ captivating Alpensinfonie.

The Lieder in this recital are not what one would consider Strauss’ “greatest hits.” There’s no Four Last Songs or Cäcilie. In a way, it is a relief to get a glimpse at some lesser-known pieces and, for the most part, Ms. Fleming does a fine job of making these pieces relevant. In some ways, it is remarkable how unblemished Ms. Fleming’s voice still is. We have been spoiled by her luscious voice and committed artistry for well over two decades now. In this concert, her ability to spin a phrase and control a line is still virtually unparalleled. For the most part, the songs in this program amply play to her strengths. The wistful Befreit and irresistibly charming Traum durch die Dämmerung showcase the fine balance Ms. Fleming brings to song recital: assurance of technique with a text-driven pathos. Her soaring lines and blazing high-notes are the vehicles through which she accomplishes this so effectively and makes these pieces all the more seductive.

The concluding scene from the first act of Arabella seemed to find Ms. Fleming in a different place, dramatically. Her seeming familiarity with and affinity for this piece brought it a bit closer to the audience. Her dramatic deportation was a welcome break from her more-formal recital stature of the previous selections. Tossing off phrases with abandon, Ms. Fleming played the heroine with infectious enthusiasm. It was a highly enjoyable closing selection with Mr. Thielemann and the Wiener Philharmoniker bringing the raucous waltz to a head.

The second half of the concert featured Strauss’ majestic Alpensinfonie. At times, it can seem a bit more like an Alpine dash than an Alpine journey, as the Maestro keeps a brisk pace for the most part. But that is certainly part of what makes this so effective a performance. The undulating surge to “Sunrise” is determined, resulting in an effusive apex. The burnished strings seem to be pulled rather than urged by a determined Maestro Thielemann through the “Ascent.” At times the Maestro’s boyish good looks make him appear as the impatient lad leading the journey. It is a highly effective approach that gives the piece a youthful enthusiasm and makes contrasting moments such as the “Wandering by the Brook” more spacious and nostalgic. The orchestra play with breathtaking sensitivity here and the details are clearly heard to great effect. The oboe solo “On the Summit” is another such fantastic moment of tenderness. The Wiener Philharmoniker play throughout with their characteristic sound seeming an ideal fit for this piece. To their credit, their deep, pulsing strings manage to play precisely and not get bogged down in their own sound. Mr. Thielemann takes care not to let the concluding moments in the epilogue get lost. He keeps an intense hand giving the music a fresh and caring conclusion.

The sound is bright and sparkling throughout and the details in the more intimate moments of the Alpensinfonie jump right out at the listener. The camera and directorial work is outstanding at capturing important instruments, bringing the details to the listener. Fans of Ms. Fleming will certainly be interested in this release and should find the results worth their time. Fans of Strauss, and the Alpensinfonie in particular, will not be disappointed in this account and may indeed find some new details to enjoy. © 2012 Read complete review

Anne Shelley
Music Media Monthly, July 2012

This live performance from the Grosses Festspielhaus at the 2011 Salzburg Festival celebrates Richard Strauss’s role as one of the festival’s founders. Add to the occasion some of the world’s most recognized Strauss interpreters—soprano Renée Fleming, conductor Christian Thielemann, and the Vienna Philharmonic—and those of us who couldn’t make it to Salzburg last year are especially grateful for this disc. Fleming’s breath control is superhuman and the orchestra’s conveyance of the majesty of the Alps is enchanting. The sound on this disc is well-balanced between soloist and orchestra; the videography is clear…and gives the viewer a personal experience of the event. Recommended. © 2012 Music Media Monthly Read complete review

Jeffrey Kauffman, July 2012

Strauss takes center stage in this lovely and thrilling 2011 concert from the Salzburg Festival, held in the city’s iconic Grosse Festspielhaus and featuring soprano Renée Fleming with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of the inimitable Christian Thielemann. With a “cast” like that, it’s hard to go wrong, and this is a fantastic overview of just how wide ranging Strauss’ compositional efforts really were.

The compositional and emotional variety on display in these four songs is quite remarkable, but so very typical of Strauss, who seemed to delight in defying audiences’ expectations…Winterliebe is an ebullient piece of high energy and almost orgasmic melismas which Fleming handles with relative ease. Speaking of orgiastic melismas, Gesang der Apollopriesterin finds Strauss at his most hedonistic, clearly presaging such later works as the lascivious Salome in sheer orchestral splendor and libidinous content.

This is musical performance of the highest order, with Thielemann bringing his typically picayune attention to detail and filling the orchestral side of things with incredible nuance and precision. It’s fascinating to watch Thielemann and Fleming in the soprano’s part of the concert: their eye contact is almost palpable, as they seem to be communicating subliminally with each other…giving the music life and energy.

Renée Fleming in Concert…is one of the nicest looking live concert releases I’ve personally seen this year, perhaps due to the nice lighting of Salzburg’s impressive Grosse Festspielhaus. Colors pop very well and fine detail is extremely pleasing…this is a beautifully sharp and clear presentation that should please demanding videophiles.

This is gorgeously performed music and both lossless tracks support the immense dynamic range that is part and parcel of Strauss’ orchestral vocabulary…this is sterling audio that is a true joy to listen to.

If you’ve never been able to get to Salzburg for a Festival performance, Renée Fleming in Concert is probably the next best thing. Gorgeous music simply pours out of these gifted musicians, and the rapport between Fleming and Thielemann is really remarkable…its video and audio are so outstanding that it comes Highly recommended. © 2012 Read complete review

Lawrence Devoe, June 2012

Richard Strauss was the Austrian composer of his generation and this concert from the 2011 Salzburg Festival features one of his massive tone poems, Eine Alpensinfonie, and a vocal recital consisting of four orchestral songs and an aria from Arabella. The program is in good hands, beginning with the Wiener Philharmoniker, probably the leading Strauss ensemble in the world, under the knowing leadership of maestro Christian Thielemann. The cause for the vocal program is further aided by star soprano Renee Fleming who has had a long relationship with the Strauss repertory. Director Michael Beyer lends outstanding videography to the proceedings making for a great watch as well as spectacular listen.

The balance between ensembles and solo players is ideal. Director Beyer puts viewers in the orchestra and the details are superb. Camera work for Ms. Fleming’s recital give us a very intimate view of this very photogenic singer. Maestro Thielemann, an animated but under control conductor, gets his fair share of glamour views as well.

Balances between voice and orchestra, a critical issue for Strauss who favors big orchestral sound are outstanding.  You get to hear all of what soprano Fleming has to offer…Conductor Thielemann has a knack for eliciting the “inner” voices of large scores, and this performance is no exception.

This is a welcome BD, the premiere for all of the works contained therein. Eine Alpensinfonie might not be Strauss at his most inspired, but it is still a potent piece that will be enjoyed by those who are new to it. The magic moment in this piece…is the section, “At the Summit,” with its potent brass chorale. For me, the opportunity to see one of today’s greatest singers present a recital of pieces that seem tailor-made for her voice is reason enough to get this BD. Supported by outstanding video and audio production, this one’s a must for your classical Blu-ray library. © 2012 Read complete review

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