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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Musikalische Memoiren (1940)
Das Land des Lächelns - Overture (1929)
Eva; Two Waltzes (1911)
Zigeunerliebe – Overture (1910)
Der Graf von Luxembourg – Two Waltzes (1909)
Die lustige Witwe – Overture (1905)
Wiener Frauen – Overture (1902)
Gold und Zilber Walzer (1899)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (item 1) and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by Franz Lehár
Recorded 1940 Vienna (item 1) and 1947 Zurich (remainder)
NAXOS 8.110857 [74.35]
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Lehár went into the Zurich studios in June 1947 to record a total of eighteen sides to be issued on 78. At seventy-seven he had managed to survive the War relatively unmolested despite having spent four years in Vienna with his Jewish wife, Sophie. It is a testimony to the competence of the Zurich Tonhalle, to the affection in which the composer was held, and to his own skill that the majority of issued sides were take ones. Of all of these pieces, recorded between 17th and 25th June 1947, only the overture to Zigeunerliebe, the Waltz-intermezzo from Der Graf von Luxembourg and the first part of the overture to Wiener Frauen relied on second takes. Lehár died the following year and these, his last recordings, are performances of such ardour and lyricism that one can only be grateful that Decca had the foresight to catch him in time. They are generally more leisurely than those earlier famous discs when he was the conductor for such Lehár vocal titans as Tauber, Esther Réthy (fellow Hungarian and a Lehár stalwart), Novotná (who’d studied, as had the composer before her, in Prague. He studied harmony and counterpoint with Fibich and Dvořák) and the equally excellent Maria Reining.

The disc actually begins with the relatively rare four sides of Musikalische Memoiren recorded in Vienna in 1940, a sort of dramatic pot-pourri and sixteen plus minutes of richly orchestrated, luxuriantly played confection. The Zurich sides must be sufficiently famous now to need little comment except to note they have a leaner orchestral palette but no less of a sense of occasion and affection. Lehár’s increasing slowness is never ponderous; on the contrary he brings marvellous zest and lyrical sweep to, say, the Overture to Das Land des Lächelns. Wiener Frauen features an extended piano interlude – one of the characters is a piano tuner - and there is a palpable zest and zing to the playing throughout whilst the waltz curls and coils with insinuating beauty. The Waltz from Eva is tinged with a certain melancholy nobility whilst Zigeunerliebe displays massed violins, swaying rhythms and a Gypsy quintet writ large – magnificent peroration as the orchestra returns to the initial surging massing theme. If you want to hear the subtlety of the orchestral principals sample the waltz from Der Graf von Luxembourg where they are on top form and the violins and cellos phrase with lilting charm.

Notes are succinct and transfers resonant and full of clarity – much like Lehár’s conducting. This was last around – minus the 1940 Viennese discs – on a Beulah CD I think. Some may be resistant to Lehárian charm. Not me – as ever and always I loved every second of it.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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