Critic’s Choice

Wed Apr 27, 2016 at 10:17 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Even by Richard Strauss standards, An Alpine Symphony is–in the current political patois–very, very big.

The tone poem’s vast scale is as daunting as the challenging mountain climb depicted therein. Spanning 50 minutes, An Alpine Symphony  is scored for 125 players encompassing triple and quadruple woodwinds, heckelphone, wind and thunder machines, organ, celesta and twenty horns (12 offstage, 8 onstage, half of whom double on Wagner tubas).

Those massive resources are the main reason Alpine Symphony remains one of the most rarely played of Strauss works. Yet its sumptuousness, great melodic richness and engaging narrative place it among the composer’s finest works.

With the eminent Straussian Bernard Haitink on the podium, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will mount the musical expedition this week with three performances. The scene will be set more modestly with Till Fellner performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 on the first half.

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.; 312-294-3000.

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