In a concert recorded at Berlin’s Tempodrom, the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and its chief conductor Robin Ticciati present Richard Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony. Joining them to talk about his life as a climber and explorer is the legendary Reinhold Messner, famed for having made the first solo ascent of Everest and for being the first mountaineer to conquer all 14 “eight-thousanders”.
Strauss’s tone poem calls for huge forces, and there are over 120 musicians taking part here. The 22 sections of the work portray a day-long hike in the mountains. The ascent begins as night fades and the sun rises – the music then takes us through forests and alpine pastures (complete with birdsong, sheep and cowbells), past a waterfall (depicted by harps and celesta) and over a glacier to the summit. The elation felt at conquering the peak is followed by a more rapid descent, punctuated by a huge thunderstorm. Finally, the sun begins to set and, just before nightfall, an epilogue captures the feelings of having communed with nature at its most awe-inspiring. The Tempodrom’s size and acoustics are perfectly suited to this monumental work and, in an experimental set-up, the orchestra is seated in a huge circle, with Ticciati conducting from the centre.
“I was fascinated to combine Messner’s psychological analysis of a climb with the pictorial, almost cinematic, scoring that Strauss uses. There is a ‘new-classical music’ emerging which has been born out of this pandemic. It revolves around ‘attitude’ and asking questions of ourselves as artists. A new service for composer and audience: a new entertainment.” – Robin Ticciati