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Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Walzer (à la Paganini), op. 11, Krapfeln-Waldel-Walzer, op. 12, Die beliebten Trompetenwalzer, op. 13, Champagner-Walzer, op. 14, Die so sehr beliebten Erinnerungs-Ländler, op. 15, Fort nacheinander!, Walzer, op. 16, Gesellschafts-Galoppe, op. 17, Lust-Lager-Walzer, op. 18, II. Lieferung der Kettenbrücke-Walzer, op. 19, Chineser-Galopp, op. 20, Carolinen-Galoppe, op. 21a, Kettenbrücke-Galoppe, op. 21b, Erinnerungs-Galoppe, op. 27 (Navariner-Galopp)
Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina/Christian Pollack
Recorded 23rd to 25th March 2002 at the Concert Hall Fatra, Žilina
Strauss Edition Volume 2
MARCO POLO 8.225252 [59:21]



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This could be quite a nice game to play on your friends. You announce a Waltz by Strauss, put on the first track and after a couple of tings from the bell, enter the solo violin and "Hey, you’ve got the wrong CD! This is La Campanella by Paganini". Right and wrong; the first waltz is based on that famous theme, sounding a little sedate in waltz-time.

I reviewed Volume I in this series not long ago and queried whether there was any particular reason for listening to six waltzes rather than just one of them six times, and I also wondered whether, when the second volume came out, one would be any better off getting it as opposed to just playing the first one again; this because the music, for all its charms, did not seem exactly memorable. A contributor to the bulletin board has accused me of saying the music was boring. I have searched the review in vain for such a word and would like to know where he found it. The point I wanted to make is that light music in general, even high quality light music of this kind, tends to have a sort of sameness which arises from the social function it performs. To say that it generally isn’t memorable doesn’t detract from its effectiveness in the context for which it is intended.

Now the question is, does Volume 2 change anything? Up to a point, yes. I’m still not going to say the music is really memorable. Perhaps this is my personal problem, but after two hearings the only tune I can actually remember is La Campanella. To tell the truth, there are a few chirpy, waltzy themes running round my head, but I couldn’t say right now if they are from the disc or whether they are tunes of the same kind I’ve been inventing myself in the last hour or so. And before my correspondent takes umbrage, I’d like to know just how many tunes he can remember after the first two hearings of this disc.

What I do remember about the disc is the inventiveness of Strauss’s orchestration. Surely nobody could claim great originality for the themes of the Champagne-Walzer, yet the piquancy of the instrumentation is a constant source of delight to the ear and ensures that attention is held, even though at 8’01" this is the longest piece on the disc. But this is only one example; considering how small a band he had at his disposal, the gamut of colours he got out of it in practically every piece here is amazing and in this respect the music in this volume is a definite advance on the earlier works in volume 1. What I miss are the long, soaring phrases of which at least two of his sons were capable. In volume 3, perhaps?

The conductor is again Christian Pollack, but he has a different orchestra. I pointed out that he is a conductor in the Stolz tradition of giving performances basically for dancing rather than concert interpretations like Mehta or Muti. And since he also has a Stolz-like ability to keep the rhythms crisp and fresh and to nudge knowingly from one section to the next, as far as I am concerned this, for a complete edition, is ideal. I felt that his previous orchestra, the Camerata Cassovia, showed some pretty poor intonation. Here, too, my correspondent objected, stating that in his opinion it wasn’t so. Unfortunately, intonation is based on mathematical principles and mathematics is not an opinion. The present band seems a little larger, and has been a little less closely recorded, but if you listen to the exchanges starting around 2’30" of track 9 you can hardly deny that there are discrepancies of pitch between strings and wind, or that the clarinet tends to play sharp right through the disc. This is not an opinion. Where there is scope for disagreement is how far it matters to you. Some people have a very low tolerance level and I should be neglecting my duty if I didn’t point out that they might have some problems with these performances, though not to the same extent as in Volume 1. Evidently my correspondent has a high tolerance level; for myself, I don’t worry too much, when the spirit is so right, up to about six pieces in a row. After that the intonation begins to reduce my enjoyment.

Still, this disc seems to me of rather wider interest than the first, which was more for Strauss completists. But how many volumes will there be, and will the next ones be better still?

Christopher Howell



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