Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Alpine Symphony - Richard Strauss
The so-called "Alpine Symphony" in reality a symphonic poem, was first produced in Berlin in 1915, by an orchestra of extraordinary size, the score calling for one hundred and sixteen instruments. It is program music from first to last and is played continuously. Pictorial descriptions follow each other rapidly. In the opening Lento night begins in the muted strings and bassoons followed by the Mountain motive in the brasses. After development sunrise appears in the orchestra fortissimo. This is introductory to the main movement, "The Ascent," which opens with a theme in the lower strings dominating the whole work. Hunting horns signal the "Entrance to the Forest." This is followed by a section, "Wandering by the Brook, and soon we arrive at the "Waterfall," imitated by rolls on the cymbals. Other divisions, "Apparition," "On Flowery Meadows," and "On the Alm," follow, and by this time the hearer is "Lost in the Thicket and the Underwood" of the low strings and woodwinds. After emerging therefrom one finds himself "On the Glacier" and experiences "Dangerous Moments," but at last reaches "the Summit," the feat being celebrated by four trombones set off against the other wind instruments and strings tremolo. The oboe in a tender sort of melody brings some relief, but now the scene changes. Clouds indicated by scale passages in the muted strings appear but are dispersed by the sun, as set forth by first violins and organ. An "Elegie" follows in the strings supported by organ. The kettle drums and bass drum announce the approach of a storm which bursts in musical fury, rather than grandeur, by the crashes, howls, and groans of the full orchestra accentuated by wind and thunder machines. At last the distracted traveler begins his descent, the sun sets, and night comes on by the use of the same material which opened the work.