Kent Nagano and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra first became acquainted in 1993, when they worked together on Mahler’s Third Symphony. Love was immediate and Kent Nagano conducted the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra regularly over the next decades.
When Kent Nagano was appointed as Principal Guest Conductor starting in the autumn of 2013, one of the ideas turned into a project: performing and recording major orchestral works of Richard Strauss in connection with the composer’s 150th anniversary in 2014. Having worked for a long time as Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper, Kent Nagano has unique insights into Strauss’s music and the Strauss tradition, and can draw on information from authentic sources within the Strauss family.
What is perhaps less known is that the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra also has a solid Richard Strauss tradition. The orchestra already performed Don Juan in its inaugural season 1905-1906; it has been played more than 50 times since then. Under Wilhelm Stenhammar, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra played Macbeth (1908) and Tod und Verklärung (1913), as well as the overture to Guntram and Till Eulenspiegel (1913).
After Stenhammar’s period as Principal Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, several of his later successors championed the music of Richard Strauss: Sergiu Comissiona (Don Quixote), Sixten Ehrling (Ein Heldenleben) and Charles Dutoit (Don Juan). Neeme Järvi and Gustavo Dudamel had a particular affinity with Don Juan, and Dudamel also conducted Ein Heldenleben.
Eine Alpensinfonie, the last of Strauss’s large orchestral pieces, entered the orchestra’s repertoire with Otmar Suitner in 1975, and since then has been one of the most popular pieces with both the orchestra and its audience. Neeme Järvi took it to the UK and Estonia (1999) and Gustavo Dudamel conducted it five times in Sweden (2007).
The orchestra was thus technically and musically familiar with the splendid score when performances were scheduled with Kent Nagano in 2014, including this recording.
For these performances and recording a new approach was taken. Conductor and orchestra wished to express not the bombastic aspects, but the subtle emotional changes, the colours and nuances of the vast and impressive landscape and the wanderer’s instinctive reaction to it, which is also expressed in the enormous orchestral apparatus. This was made possible only by the long and searching work orchestra and conductor carried out together over the years, which made possible new shades and depths in the re-creation of this magnificent piece of art.