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Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Complete Edition: Volume 6

Fra Diavolo-Cotillons op.41 [11:48], Wiener Bürgermarsch Nr. 2: Marsch nach Motiven der Opera Zampa [02:13], Alexandra-Walzer op.56 [08:50], Polka in E flat [02:03], Zampa-Walzer op.57 [10:57], Jäger-Polka [02:18], Mein schönster Tag in Baden, Walzer op.58 [07:44], Quadrille nach Motiven aus der Oper Anna Bolena [05:20], Die vier Temperamente, Walzer op.59 [10:14], Reise-Galopp op.85 [02:08], Karnevals-Spende, Walzer op.60 [06:03]
Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina/Christian Pollack
Recorded 2nd-4th February 2004, Fatra Concert Hall, Žilina, Slovakia
MARCO POLO 8.225282 [69:56]

 


As this series proceeds it is becoming increasingly evident that Strauss the father’s almost total eclipse by at least two of his sons, gifted though they were, was highly unjust. Admittedly the first volume or two in this complete edition suggested a limited talent, but he was inventing a new style after all, and by the time of the pieces in Volume 6 he was writing "symphonic" introductions, codas which develop and combine the themes of the waltz proper, and was binding together even his longer waltzes in one long sweep. Furthermore, his friendly bonhomie, his perky good-humour, is just as valuable in its way as the alternating verve and elegance of Johann II or the gentle melancholy of Josef. He lacked, maybe, the knack of inventing memorable titles, yet "The Four Temperaments" is easy enough to remember, and how magically its introduction opens. The syncopated theme of the first section – "The Sanguine" – is delightfully droll, "The Melancholic" sighs and languishes without forgetting that he is dancing a waltz, "The Choleric" huffs and puffs with, again, much syncopation while "The Phlegmatic" belies his label with a most affecting, Ländler-like tune. All are heard again in the extended coda.

Another highlight is "My Fairest Day in Baden", which actually begins with a note of dark passion leading to a timpani roll which might suggest approaching thunder but instead leads to a bright fanfare and off we go with the waltz. But, if these and the appropriately upfront "Carnival Contribution Waltz" go to the top of my list, there is really nothing here, not even the two polkas which may not be by Strauss at all, which is not worth having.

While the Johann Strauss II complete edition boasted a range of conductors, parading some of the best and quite a lot of the worst in Strauss interpretation today, the present series has been largely the work of Christian Pollack (the editions used come from his personal archive), with just two volumes (so far), and wonderful ones, from the veteran Ernst Märzendorfer. At the outset I felt that, while Pollack had the right approach – unmannered and close to the spirit of the dance – the orchestral response he obtained was a bit too rough and ready. However, I can only report that, like a good wine, he and his orchestra seem to be getting better as time goes on, for in terms of articulation, tuning and phrasing these performances are really very able, while his love for the music is audibly shared by the players. So, with good recording into the bargain, this becomes a disc for all lovers of good Viennese dance music, and not just for specialists who want every note.

The informative notes are provided by Franz Mailer, but Keith Anderson completists will be pleased to know that their indefatigable hero has provided the English translations – and very good ones, for they don’t read like translations and I know from my own experience that’s not an easy thing to obtain.

Christopher Howell



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