Wednesday, July 1, 2015


About the pipe organ:
"The monster doesn't breathe!"
AUTHOR: Igor Stravinsky
"Pedal tones, indigenous to the organ,
  make continuous, non-stop sounds."

Zugspitze Sunset from Lermoos in Bavaria Germany

Fabio Luisi, Conductor
Staatskapelle Dresden

Georg Max Klein: Alps
1. Nacht
2. Sonnenaufgang
3. Der Anstieg
(The Ascent)
4. Eintritt in den Wald
(Entry into the Wood)
5. Wanderung neben dem Bache
(Wandering by the Brook)
6. Am Wasserfall
(At the Waterfall)
7. Erscheinung
8. Auf blumigen Wiesen
(On Flowering Meadows)
Bashinzhagyan Georgy Zakharovich:
Meadow in the Mountains
9. Auf der Alm
(On the Alpine Pasture)
10. Durch Dickicht und Gestrüpp auf Irrwegen
(Wrong Path Through the Thicket and Undergrowth)
11. Auf dem Gletscher
(On the Glacier)
Two Climbers on the Glacier of
Hoellental route to Zugspitze
12. Gefahrvolle Augenblicke
(Dangerous Moments)
13. Auf dem Gipfel
(On the Summit)
14. Vision
15. Nebel steigen auf
(Mists Rise)
16. Die Sonne verdüstert sich allmählich
(The Sun Gradually Becomes Obscured)
17. Elegie
18. Stille vor dem Sturm
(Calm Before the Storm)
19. Gewitter und Sturm, Abstieg
(Thunder and Tempest, Descent)
20. Sonnenuntergang
21. Ausklang
(Waning Tones/Dying Away of Sound)
22. Nacht
Edward Handel Mazzetti: Alps
An Alpine Symphony, Op. 64, German Eine
Alpensinfonie, is a type of program music
called a symphonic poem (a land-scape
tone-painting) by German composer
Richard Strauss that musically re-creates a
day's mountain climb in the Bavarian Alps.
It premiered on October 28, 1915 and
was dedicated to Count Seebach,
Robert SterlNikolaus Graf Seebach, 1912
the Director of the Royal Opera in Dresden,
Dresden Opera House (Semperoper)
in token of his gratitude for providing the
venue in which the first performances ofno
less than four of his six operas had been
given. It was conducted by Strauss himself

Strauss Conducts Strauss
Eine Alpensinfonie World Premiere Program, 1915
and performed by the Court (Hofkapelle)
Orchestra of Dresden although the event
took place at the Philharmonie in Berlin
Philharmonie in Berlin
where Strauss occupied a position of some
authority. His contact with the opera and
Philharmonic Society in Berlin was severed in 1918.
While Richard Strauss was famous as a
composer of tone poems, he had, at the
time of the Alpensinfonie, gone a dozen
years without producing a major symphonic
work after having shifted his focus to opera.
Perhaps it was because World War I
John Singer Sargent: Gassed, 1918 (WWI)
was underway and opportunities to
produce new operas were fewer that he
returned one last time to the tone poem.
The landscape written about in The
Alpine Symphony was ultra-familiar to
Strauss as he was born in Munich,
not far from Bavaria's mountains.
Odon Czintos: The Alps
At the time he composed this piece, Strauss
was living in the gorgeous, high-altitude
landscape, southern Bavarian town of Garmisch
Home Town: A painted Photographic Postcard of Garmisch
(now called Garmisch-Partenkirchen),
The town was originally two separate settlements, one Roman and the other Teutonic.
In anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympics, the two towns were forced to combine.
Anton Doll: Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Cows Drinking from a Fountain in Garmisch
at the foot of Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze,
The summit of the Zugspitze is marked by a gold cross.
Zugspitze: The Top of Germany's Highest Peak, Bavaria
in a a villa he constructed from his
earnings from the opera Salome.
He moved into his new
villa at the beginning of 1908,
Strauss' Garmische Villa
and he lived there to the end
of his life, composing in a room
that afforded a spectacular view
of the surrounding peaks.
German Alps Seen from Garmisch, Germany
In 1879, as a young fifteen-year-old teenager,
Strauss and a group of friends had set out
before dawn to climb a mountain
Edward Young: Young Man in the Highlands
in Upper Bavaria,
reaching the summit five hours later, and then
were driven back down the mountain by a
tremendous thunderstorm.
Strauss recounted this experience
in a letter about how they set out
at sunrise, wandered by a brook with a
waterfall, saw flowering meadows and alpine
pastures, slid across a glacier, reached the
summit then, come down through a rising mist,
and walked through a storm with their heads
held high, marveling at a glowing sunset.
Sunset at Heimgarten
He noted that once he was near a piano,
he had improvised a musical
version of the experience.
Heimgarten Mountain
Here is a part of the letter Strauss wrote
on August 26 to his friend, Austrian
composer and teacher,
relating his experience:
"Recently we made a great hiking
party to the top of the Heimgarten,
Heimgarten Mountain
Painting of the Heimgarten Mountain
on which day we walked for twelve
hours. At two in the morning 
we rode on a handcart
Originial Old Handcart
to the village,
The Village is probably Ohlstadt, a township of Schlehdorf,
which lies at the foot of the Heimgarten Mountain
which lies at the foot of the mountain.
According to Strauss' directions he probably did not take this route.
Then we climbed by
the light of lanterns
Climbing at Night
in pitch-dark night and
arrived at the peak
Arriving at the Peak of Heimgarten
after a five-hour march.
There one has a splendid view 
[of lakes, mountains, glaciers, and so on].
Quiet Wilderness in the Bavarian Mountains
to Lake Walchensee,
Lovis Corinth: Lake Walchensee
but we took a wrong trail and had to climb around
in the midday heat for three hours with no path.
. . . . Lake Walchensee
Lake Walchensee
is a beautiful lake, but makes a melancholy
impression since it is enclosed by
forests and high mountains. . . .
Lovis Corinth: Rain at Walchensee
[On the way from there to Lake Kochelsee]
Wassily Kandinsky: Hostel at Lake Kochel
Lake Kochelsee
a terrible thunderstorm overtook us,
Carl Lohse: Gewitterstimmung
which uprooted trees
Uprooted Spruce after a Storm
(Roots in Moss-Covered Peaty Soil)
and threw stones in our
faces. We hardly had time to find a dry spot
before the storm broke.  Lake Kochelsee,
Josef Wopfner: At Lake Kochelsee
a very romantic and beautiful lake,
Michael Lueger: View of Lake Kochel with Herzogstand and Heimgarten, 1854
made huge waves so that it was impossible
to even think about crossing it.
Wassily Kandinsky: Kochel - Lake with Boat 
After the storm had passed we had to settle
for walking all the way around the lake,
whether we wanted to or not.

Wassily Kandinsky: (Left) Kochel - Schlehdorf (Right) Kochelsee Over the Bay, 1902
On the way the rain came again and
that is how we arrived in Schlehdorf,
A More Current Picture of Schlehdorf
Schlehdorf  Kochelsee: View from a Hilltop, 1819
Schleedorf am Kochelsee: View from a hilltop on the monastery
and the lake, in the foreground two hunters.
after a breakneck march
Forest Sunset
(we did not rest for a single moment— tired,
soaked to the skin—and spent the night;
then the next morning we rode
as calm as could be in the hay wagon
Gabriele Münter: Study of a Haywagon, 1908
to Murnau.
Gabriele Münter: View of Murnau
Wassily Kandinsky: Murnau, Dorfstrasse1908
The hike was interesting, unusual, and
original in the highest degree."
For his mature work, Strauss designated a
massive ensemble of well over 100 performers,
including an abundance of brass (quadrupled in size)
and percussion, an expanded woodwind section
including the rarely encountered bass
oboe called the Heckelphone,
The heckelphone, a baritone member of the oboe family, pitched an octave below the standard
oboe and notably robust of tone. It takes its name from the Heckel instrument-building firm,
which invented it in 1904 and refined it in ensuing decades, and it looks rather like an overgrown
English horn. The instrument shows up in a handful of scores by other composers, but basically
the heckelphone is a Strauss instrument. He was the first to employ it in an orchestra (in his
opera Salome) and would also use it memorably in his opera Elektra, his ballet Josefslegende,
and his orchestral Festliches Präludium, in addition to An Alpine Symphony.
a specially designed thunder machine
(a large rotating drum with balls inside),
and a wind machine
Wind Machine
on top of an organcelesta,
and two sets of timpani.
An Alpine Symphony displays another curiosity
in its wind writing: occasional notes held so long
that players might be forced to interrupt them to
take a breath. Strauss suggests a solution
in his score: the Samuels Aerophon.
The Aerophon, also known as Aerophor, was a device introduced by the German flutist
Bernhard Samuels in 1911, and it was basically a mouthpiece attached to a tube leading 
to a bellows operated by a foot treadle, allowing the wind-player to pump away without 
using his own breath in such trying situations as these. It didn’t catch on. Today orchestral 
musicians are more likely to address the problem by using circular breathing, a nifty 
trick whereby they inhale through their nose while forcing air into their 
instrument with a little extra push from their cheek muscles.
Needless to say, the extravagant resources
required by the score make An Alpine
Symphony complicated and expensive to
produce, and the fact that it was unveiled in
a Europe seriously straitened by World War I
Romaine Brooks: La France Croisée, 1914 (WWI)
all but ensured that it would have scant
hope for performances in the years
immediately following its premiere.
This is a very long, opulent work of symphonic
proportions. Some find it glorious, others find it
puffed-up and bombastic. Even though its
specific program is the succession of stages in
the ascent and descent of a mountain in the
Alps, this excursion also stands symbolically
for a Nietzsche ideal of attaining
one's purpose in life through the
strength of one's own will.
It is semi-autobiographical to the extent that it
represents an ardent celebration of nature—
indeed, of nature at its most awe-
inspiring, as epitomized by a day of
mountain climbing in the Alps.
Andre Kosslick: Alps Mountain Scene
To Strauss the Alpine Symphony represents
(as written in his 1911 diary)
"moral purification through one's own strength,
liberation through work,
worship of eternal, magnificent nature."
Bavarian Mountains
Although Strauss called his work a symphony,
it bears none of the characteristics of that form.
Instead of the standard four movements, An
Alpine Symphony is written in one uninterrupted
flow of music (roughly 45 minutes in performance
length), portraying distinct episodes on the climb.
Strauss begins the work with a magnificent,
hushed effect: Before sunrise the bulk of
the mountain becomes visible;
the Night motive of dark and somber tones is
heard on hushed horns against a chord that
thickens itself note by note until all the notes
of B minor are hanging in the air. After
the brassy emergence of the Sun,
Sunrise Seen from Ohlstadt
the climbers set forth to a rhythmic, rising theme.
The "Ascent" motive starts the action with phrases
of this theme recurring throughout the work.
Horns and clarinets (with an offstage ensemble
of twelve horns, two trumpets, and two trombones),
representing hunters and birds,
German Hunter and his Dogs
carry them into the forest where
they cross a brook, go by a waterfall
Jez Barnes: At the Bottom of the Waterfall
(the mists rising from that cascade
conjure up images of Alpine fairies).
Leaving the forest,
Summer Forest
the climbers ascend to a sunny
flower-filled Alpine meadow
and then to a mountain pasture,
Johann Gottfried Steffan: Young Herdsman with Goats and Sheep, 1858
where shepherds call to one another
(clangor of cowbells are heard).

The adventure takes an ominous turn when
the climbers get entangled in a thicket
and then must cross a glacier
(the "Waterfall" motive is
harmonically "frozen" here)
and a perilous precipice

before they reach the summit
where upon they enjoy a glorious feeling,
a moment of de-oxygenated splendor (described
by a solo oboe over a violin tremolo). Here a grand
trombone fanfare with rich orchestral passages
creating the effect of a glorious panorama.
But clouds cover the Sun,
The Peak of Heimgarten with Clouds Rolling In
and darkness and turmoil prevail
as a tremendous thunderstorm
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Photo 'Angry Skies' by Jonathan Crow
looms overhead.
They then begin the "Descent."

Descent - Sunset - Finale - Night
Bernard Haitink, Conductor
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 2012

The adventurers scramble down the mountain,
their descent represented by falling intervals,
an inversion of the rising theme heard during
the ascent but get caught in a sudden
and violent thunderstorm.
Albert Bierstadt: Storm Among the Alps, ca. 1856
As they retrace their steps
(each of the previous sights—the glacier,
the pasture,
the waterfall
Wassily Kandinsky: Kochel Waterfall II, 1902
—passes by in reverse order...
the climbers hasten down the slopes to
arrive at the foot of the mountain as the
storm has passed and the Sun is setting.
Sunset in the Mountains as Seen from Ohlstadt
After sunset the low sun might light the mountaintops and the clouds
appearing to color them red and orange. This is called an Alpenglow.
Night has come (the Night motive is
intoned again) and and darkness prevails.
Musically and dramatically, Strauss brings
the listener full circle ingeniously constructing
the piece as a kind of musical palindrome
from the beginning with a description of
night to the very end repeating the
opening murky nocturnal atmosphere.
Kilian Schönberger: Nightfall in Bavaria
"Zugspitze and Eibsee" Germany, 1957
(With Scenery)
Andrè Previn, Conductor
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

(With Scenery)
Andrè Previn, Conductor
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Andre Kosslick: Bavarian Alps III

Bavarian Prealps
Map of Germany and Upper Bavaria in Relation to Europe


The climb starts before dawn, as is customary
to catch the best snow. A dark descending
scale is heard in the strings, followed by
solemn chords in the lower brass, representing
the bulk and power of the mountain, as yet barely
visible. Gradually the music stirs, and the long
crescendo ends in a shattering burst of sunlight,
a passage reminiscent of the famous
introduction to Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Introduction to Also Sprach Zarathustra

'The Ascent'
After basking in the glow, the adventure starts
with a purposeful striding theme in the cellos.
This builds to a climax, then offstage
hunting horns are heard
(horns, trumpets and trombones).
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Starting the Ascend Example 1
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Starting the Ascend Example 2

'Entry into the Woods'
Wassily Kandinsky: Forest Edge, 1903
The next section features writing of great
complexity, at one point alternating solo
string quartet and full orchestra.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Into the Woods Example
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Into the Woods, Birdsong and Hunters Example

'Wandering by the Brook'
We come to a stream
Peter G Hall: Mountain Stream, Sunnyside
portrayed with meandering writing in the strings.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Wandering by a Stream Example

'At the Waterfall'
Approaching a waterfall.
Partnach Gorge: A deep gorge that has been incised by
a mountain stream, the Partnach, in the Reintal valley
near the south German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The torrents of water are portrayed in writing
of scintillating brilliance, as only Strauss knew how.

Through the mists
we can see a ghostly figure (popular
superstition held that an alpine sprite
would appear beneath the rainbow
formed by sunlight streaming through falling water).
A Rainbow Under a Waterfall
This legend of the phantom
Alpine Sprite was also
used by Byron
(though Byron
referred to her as a witch)
in his poem Manfred,
later composed
into a symphony by Tchaikovsky.
John Martin: Manfred on the Jungfrau (Alps), 1837
A glorious tune for horns and violas,
strongly reminiscent of Bruch's Violin
Concerto, ending this passage.
Max Bruch
Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 26
Movement 3

Itzhak Perlman, Violin
André Previn, Conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Alpine Spirit Example

'On the Flowering Meadows'
We leave the woods
Isaac Levitan: Path in the Forest, 1885
and enter a meadow.
Bavaria, Germany
'On the High Pasture'

Coming to the high pasture land, with its grazing cattle.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie In the Pasture Example 1

'Through thicket and undergrowth,
but on the wrong way'
More lovely music follows with memories
of Strauss' adventures as a young man.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie In the Thicket Example 1
The party has left the correct path and has got
into difficulties trying to retrieve the error by
cutting through the undergrowth.

Then darkness (this time from the thicket)
Vincent Van Gogh: Trees and Undergrowth, 1887
closes in again.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie In the Thicket Example 2
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie In the Thicket Example 3
The tempo hurries forward as the mountaineers
become more and more desperate until
suddenly they push clear of the entanglement
and find themselves on the glacier.
The bright sunlight emerges.

'On the Glacier'
On the Glacier on Route to Zugspitze
Moving proves to be slippery.

'Dangerous Moments'

Just before reaching the summit: treacherous.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Just Before Reaching the Summit Example

'At the Summit'
Mount Watzmann: Summer in the Bavarian Alps
Soon the goal is reached. After a brief moment
of triumph, a solo oboe sings of awe and wonder
at the view. The whole orchestra then joins
in; a truly inspiring climax to the work.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Reaching the Summit Example
The tonality shifts from bright C major to
mysterious F-sharp for in which the complexity
of the scenery seems to baffle the onlooker.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Strange Hesitant Utterance Example

'Mist Descends'
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Photo 'Alpspitze Misty Mystery' by Jonathan Crow
The view itself becomes less clear.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Mist Descends, Sun Obscured Example

'The Sun Becomes Obscured'
Franz Marc: Alpine Landscape with Rising Fog, 1903
There is a brief moment for sad reflection.
Richard Strauss: Alpen Sinfonie Elegy, Calm Before the Storm Example

'Calm before the Storm'
All goes very quiet and still.

'The Descent'
There is distant thunder and lightning
and heavy raindrops;
a bird flies away in fright.
An Eagle Flies Away from the West Face of Zugspitze
Soon the full fury of the storm is on us.
Norman del Mar
wrote in his critical commentary:
Storm Clouds Spill Over the Alps
"That Strauss' storm would overreach every previous orchestral
tempest inverisimilitude and virtuosity of descriptive technique
was a foregone conclusion. The blinding sheets of drenching rain,
the driving wind, the flashing and thundering, are all portrayed with
alarming reality, as are the occasional lulls followed by
renewed bouts of violence, exactly as in real life."

Julius Sergius von Klever: Sunset in the Woods
Eventually the storm dies down
and the day is nearly over.

Sunset on Zugspitz
The final glowing rays lead into a period of
reminiscence and farewell, featuring the
organ and ecstatic string writing.

Darkness overtakes us and the mountain returns
back to its mystery, as at the beginning.
Heimgarten Mountain at Night