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Gustavo Dudamel, a gifted conductor, makes his debut recording with the German virtuoso orchestra in Strauss' famous nine-part tone poem, with splendid additions of two other Strauss concert-hall favourites: the impish portrayal of Till Eulenspieg's Merry Pranks and the tone poem Don Juan inspired by a poem about the celebrated lover.
All these works are filled with this composer's talent for harmonic and melodic invention. The opening organ and brass section of Zarathustra was immortalised in Kubrick's science-fiction film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The work as a whole, inspired by Nietzsche's poem, is epic and evocative.
Dudamel, a Strauss fan, had conducted this music in concerts in Berlin. He makes the orchestra show its flair in the recording inside the Philharmonie in Berlin, the hall expressly designed for the luxurious tones of such late-Romantic music. The orchestra has these works ''running in its veins'' (according to Deutsche Grammophon president) and Strauss himself conducted the Berlin Phil in 1888 playing his own symphonic fantasy Aux Italien. The modern ingredient of a dynamic young conductor certainly provides wonderful listening.
Gustavo Dudamel earned a ''Best Orchestral Recording'' Grammy in 2012 for his recording of Brahms' Symphony No. 4 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was named Musical America's ''Musician of the Year'' for 2013. Oddly, the booklet with this disc concentrates on telling the composer's turbulent relationship with the Berlin Phil but gives scant programme information. No faults with the music though!
Highlight: Tremendous crescendo opens Zarathustra.