A few months ago I reviewed Antoni's Wit's new Mahler 8th on Naxos, closing with the enthusiastic endorsement of "highest recommendations". By a long shot, I wasn't the only critic who found his version one of the very finest among the dozens available. Moreover, most of what I've heard from this conductor has been impressive, and I'm puzzled that he is still an underrated figure on the podium today, though many audiences and critics have been taking note of his talents in recent times.
This Strauss Alpine is another splendid Wit performance, placing it among the finest versions of the piece – those led by Mehta (twice), Karajan, possibly Maazel and others. Here, tempos are well judged, much often-hidden detail emerges – not least because of Naxos' excellent sound – and the orchestra responds with committed, passionate playing. Textures are lush where appropriate, Strauss' rich post-Romantic themes soar with a perfect balance of the epic and the fervent, and the composer's famous orchestral effects come through with splendid color and execution. #13, The Summit here exudes power and majesty and may well be the summit of this performance, but then so much else is so brilliantly brought off: try the Waterfall (#6) and Storm (#19) sections.
But, as is often the case with Naxos' recordings, this one will sweep the boards with many buyers because of its low price. Yet, even if this were a full-price recording, I believe I could recommend this effort as a first choice in this fine work. Naxos provides twenty-two tracks and excellent notes by the dependable and untiring Keith Anderson, who offers insightful background details on the music and short commentary on each of the twenty-two cues! Again, Wit must be given a "highest recommendations" ranking.
Copyright © 2006, Robert Cummings