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Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843-1922)
Operatta Overtures

Ball bei Hof (1911) [8:39]
Das dumme Herz [7:06]
Der bleiche Zauberer (1890) [3:14]
Der Fremdenführer (1902) [6:30]
Der Schätzmeister (1904) [7:54]
Der schöne Rigo (c.1889 reconstructed) [5:24]
Die drei Wunsche (1901) [5:56]
Manöverkinder (1912) [8:08]
Ein Deutschmeister (1888) [5:31]
Ein tolles Mädel (1907) [5:12]
König Jérôme (1878) [5:03]
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Pollack
rec. House of the Arts, Kosice, Slovakia, 8-11 December 2006
Notes in English and German
MARCO POLO 8.225332 [68:37]



Carl Michael Ziehrer was born in Vienna in 1843. Initially a dancing school pianist, his competence and confidence led him to form a dance band with financial backing from his wealthy father. A bandmaster in the Austrian army at 27, he went on to form an influential Viennese orchestra when in his early thirties. When he did, he robbed Strauss of some of his fine orchestral musicians through the attraction of higher wages. Much of Ziehrer’s output - not here - dates back to his dancing school days, but in the 1890s he had some success as an operetta composer. At that stage he was composing generally in the, by then, outdated style of Johann Strauss. Considered by many Austrians to be their finest composer of marches, the style is evident in some of the overtures found here. At his death he left 24 operettas, over 400 dance pieces for the ballroom, and around 70 marches. It is thought that much of his music from his younger days has been lost.
 
Of the overtures, the Ein Deutschmeister Overture is probably the best constructed of those represented here, and introduces a myriad very pleasant melodies. The rousing Ball bei Hof Overture that opens the disc is attractive in many ways and presents us with bright passages of pomp and ceremony. The music for Der schöne Rigo Overture was destroyed when Hamburg was bombed in the Second World War. What we hear is a reconstruction by Christian Pollack. Some of the melodies had been taken from Ziehrer’s earlier operetta, Ein Deutschmeister so the orchestration could be matched. Presumably, a vocal score showing the melodies, and possibly a piano version of the overture exists.
 
The remainder of the disc is pleasant, but what we have are pieces some of which could be classed more as dances in the Straussian style rather than overtures. There is hardly any development within the pieces and their rhythms are often particularly regular. Ziehrer seems to adopt more of a ‘nuts and bolts’ recipe to construction, which I find makes the music in some ways less varied than many pieces from the pen of Strauss and intended for Austrian vaudeville. Consequently, despite plenty of colour, we have a certain monotony of style - however pleasant - which I have never associated with overtures.
 
With excellent forces in the Slovak State Philharmonic and a lovely horn section, Christian Pollack achieves above average results from the scores and gives us enjoyable performances. The disc is well recorded, the excellent and broad acoustic enhancing the brass wonderfully. If one enjoys Strauss waltzes and his other dances then you will not be disappointed in these offerings.
 
Despite the rarity value of first time recordings of these pieces, I would have expected this genre to have been issued on the more general Naxos label rather than the rarefied specialist Marco Polo.
 
Raymond J Walker
 



 


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