Who Played It Better: Strauss' Zarathustra
by Seth Colter Walls | October 10, 2013
It takes a touch of courage for a conductor to issue an album dominated by a piece like Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Few pieces of the classical repertoire have been as memorably recorded since director Stanley Kubrick gave Herbert von Karajan's version such grand exposure during the beginning of his film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But conducting wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel is nothing if not assured -- and he likes to make bold entrances -- so his new recording of the nine-movement Strauss work makes sense. Recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker, it may not have the immediate drama of Karajan's version, but it has other virtues (especially in the quieter sections). It makes a grand compare-and-contrast opportunity, which is why we invite you to make your own determination as to which version is preferable. Karajan's historic version, with the Wiener Philharmoniker, is up first in the appended playlist (Tracks 1-9), with Dudamel's new approach following.