One of Richard Strauss's favourite orchestras, the Dresden Staatskapelle is partway through a major retrospective of his works with their new music director, Fabio Luisi. The coupling of this latest instalment - the Alpine Symphony and the Four Last Songs - might strike some as unusual. Luisi links the pieces by presenting both as exercises in nostalgia that contrast human transience and fallibility with nature's capacity for infinite renewal. His approach to the Alpine Symphony is potentially controversial in that he plays down the usual Nietzschean arrogance and existential bravado in favour of a slow-moving, lyrical account that celebrates Romantic values even as they begin to crumble and decay. The Four Last Songs, in contrast, are uncommonly urgent, as if time were swiftly running out, rather than slowly ebbing away. Anja Harteros is the soloist: her bright, clean sound won't appeal to those who like velvety sopranos in this music, though she has a remarkably incisive way with words and the text really registers for once. The playing is gorgeous in both works.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss