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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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The Strauss Album
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)

Zampa Galop, Opus 62 (1832)
Radetzky March, Opus 228 (1848)

Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)

Nightshade Polka, Opus 229 (1867)
Jockey Polka, Opus 278 (1870)

Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

Perpetuum Mobile, Opus 257 (1862)
Emperor Waltz, Opus 437 (1889)
Champagne Polka, Opus 211 (1858)
Overture: Die Fledermaus (1874)
Polka: Im Krapfenwald’l, Opus 336 (1870)
Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Opus 214 (1858)
Waltz: On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Opus 314 (1867)
Thunder and Lightning Polka, Opus 324 (1868)
Memories of Covent Garden, Opus 329 (1867)

Johann STRAUSS II and Josef STRAUSS

Pizzicato Polka (1870)
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916)

Polka: Burning and Yearning (1895)
The Johann Strauss Orchestra/Christopher Warren-Green
Recorded 7-9 November 2000, Angel Studios, London
ASV WHITE LINE CD WHL 2157 [67.48]

 

The music of the Strauss family remains one of the most popular areas of the orchestral repertory. This remarkable family of six composers created nearly fifteen hundred compositions, notable chiefly for their glorious melodies, but also for their wonderful mastery of the orchestra.

This attractively contrived programme features well loved classics of the Viennese repertory alongside some well chosen rarities. That itself is a major plus, since the opus numbers immediately tell us that these composers were extremely prolific, and there is always more to discover. Thus Eduard Strauss’s Burning and Yearning, a polka in ‘French Style’, is a delight; so too Johann I’s Zampa Galop.

Not that these rarities are the only attractions. There are some fresh and inviting performances of well-loved classics too. For example, Johann II’s Memories of Covent Garden emerges with honours, and his Perpetuum Mobile is treated to a performance of panache, instrumental virtuosity and real wit. And a vital rendition of the famous Radetzky March rounds proceedings off.

The production standards are at one with all this. The booklet is well produced and the notes by Peter Kemp of the British Johann Strauss Society are a model of lucidity and insight. The recorded sound too is most pleasing, allowing the sharp focus of the performances to make an urgent impression or a beguiling effect, as the case may be.

If these are all advantages, and considerable advantages too, what of the drawbacks? The answer to that question is that there are no major problems, save that the music is available in more characterful and sonically pleasing performances elsewhere. The Johann Strauss Orchestra (London orchestral players) is conducted by Christopher Warren-Green, who is chiefly known as the leader of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He directs crisply articulate performances of all this music, but his band is relatively small, and the string sound in particular lacks fullness and body. Whether this is the result of lack of numbers or of the recorded sound is by the by. One of the glories of this music is the rich and colourful orchestral sonority, and this ensemble sounds decidedly thin and under-characterised besides the Vienna Philharmonic. Having said that, some might argue that the ensembles who first played the music were smaller rather than larger in number, in which case this approach becomes the ‘authentic’ alternative.

Terry Barfoot

 



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