Victor Herbert's fame rests on his musicals. I note that a number of these
have been recorded complete over the last 20 years. The Naxos series has
done well to include a volume honouring one of America's (immigrant Irish)
most commercially successful sons.
The Babes in Toyland (1903) orchestral pot-pourri takes up three quarters
of an hour on this disc. This includes a very substantial (14 minute) prelude.
The music is a mix of early-Delian dreaminess (think of the Florida
Suite), salon charm, hints of popular music of the time, with helpings
of the lighter Berlioz and Tchaikovsky along the way. Oh, and don't forget
a shamrock leaf or two thrown in for effect. All is done with the smoothest
finesse. The Dancing Toymaker movement resorts, somewhat desperately,
to dog barks, duck squawks and rooster calls while The Red Mill (1906)
takes us into Strauss, Lanner, Millocker and Reznicek territory. The Red
Mill is an agreeable bag of candies: Coney island vulgarity, stertorous
marches, frilly bloomers, hour glass figures, straw boaters and striped
waistcoats - in fact all the panoply of Hollywood nostalgia. The music includes
a rather fine 'hesitation' dance.
Rather like the two Sousa discs in this series this would not be my chosen
listening fare (hence the star marking). Naxos and the artists here have
nevertheless done an excellent job. For those who are drawn to the lighter
Herbert and Sousa you are very unlikely to be able to do better than this
and as with everything else in this series all at super-bargain