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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


LANNER Joseph (1801-1843)
Waltzes and Galopps
Jagd-Galoppe ("Jägers Lust"), op. 82, Die Schönbrunner Ė Walzer, op. 200, Der Romantiker Ė Walzer, op. 167, Abend-Sterne Ė Walzer, op. 180, Marien-Walzer, op. 143, Tarantel-Galopp, op. 125, Die Werber Ė Walzer, op. 103, Neujahrs-Galopp, op. 61/2, Hofball-Tänze - Walzer, op. 161, Bruder Halt! Ė Galopp, op. 16, Pesther-Walzer, op. 93, Dampf-Walzer und Galopp, op. 94
Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra/Willi Boskovsky
Recorded in Vienna, 5-8/5/71, Redoutensaal (2-3), 5/72, Simmeringer Hof (1, 4), 17-19/1/1977, Baumgartner Casino (5-12)
EMI CLASSICS CDM 5 74372 2 [75í 51"]


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Musical politics can be about as nasty as the other sort. Willi Boskovsky was born in 1909, joined the violin section of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1932, became a co-leader in 1939 and took over the traditional New Yearís Day Concerts after the death of Clemens Krauss in 1954. With his natural style and elegance (conducting from the violin) he seemed the ideal person to take the New Yearís Day Concerts out of the confines of Austria and into the world of Eurovision, and by the late seventies it looked as if he would be conducting them for all eternity. But he committed the unpardonable sin of falling ill before the 1980 concert and was replaced by Lorin Maazel. In other walks of life a person who falls ill and then gets better goes back to work afterwards, but when there is a Vienna New Yearís Day Concert at stake the sin is evidently too great. For the rest of his life (he died in 1991) he remained active as a recording artist (it would be interesting to know how many names the Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic had in common) and conducted his New Yearís Day Concerts where and when he could. Unfêted, unheralded, he turned up in Milan to conduct one New Yearís Eve during this last decade, while in Vienna Maazel continued for a few years, until the traditional event became a catwalk for great contemporary names, some of them singularly unsuited to the repertoire (I donít refer to the two legendary concerts conducted by Carlos Kleiber). I donít know who or why, but there was skulduggery here, mark my words.

Still, at least Boskovsky got to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. I donít know if Robert Stolz, whose Lanner CD I reviewed a few months ago (BMG 74321 84145 2), ever conducted it in his long life (1880-1975), but in Viennese eyes he was a conductor for the Symphoniker, not the Philharmoniker. And, while Boskovsky recorded for Decca and EMI, Stolz (even if the disc is now on BMG) recorded for smaller organisations. Politics again?

Six items out of twelve are common to both discs, so how do the two men compare?

Boskovsky was a violinist and the violins of the orchestra always love it when one of their own turns to conducting so that the bowing instructions issued from the rostrum make sense for once. Other parts of the orchestra call them "top-liners". A Pavlov-dog reaction on my part, maybe, but the cap does seem to fit here. All the melodies are turned with elegance and style, while the accompaniments are neatly dosed but always in the background. Itís pleasant, "schön" in the best Viennese chocolate-box way, but a shade bland. Perhaps the Vienna Philharmonic had a point in thinking it was time a conductor with a bigger personality took over.

Stolz was a composer and he shows much more interest and awareness in how the music is made. Let me give a few examples of what this means in practice. When the waltz proper starts in Hofball-Tänze you scarcely notice the counter-melody in the lower strings in Boskovskyís performance. Stolz has the two melodies dialoguing with each other like real counterpoint, and how much more characterful it sounds. Yes, he is a little slower, but he uses this to bring out details Boskovsky brushes over. His waltz rhythms are chunkier (this is particularly noticeable also in Die Werber) but always alive, never heavyhanded. Listen, too, to the introduction of Der Romantiker. The violins dig into their melody with real passion and Stolz uses the chugging strings (kept well in the background by Boskovsky) to give a sense almost of symphonic movement. The wind chords in this introduction are not just played but Stolz seems to be probing into them, bringing out chromatic lines or harmony changes. What this all amounts to is that the music itself seems to have greater stature under Stolz.

One curious feature is that in Die Romantiker and in Pesther-Walzer Stolz includes a harp part, and enjoys its colouristic effect to the full. There is no harp at all in the Boskovsky performances, but I am not able to say whether it is an optional extra sanctioned by Lanner himself. I am sure he would have appreciated it anyway.

I gave considerable praise to the Stolz disc. In retrospect, perhaps I should have praised it more highly still. I donít want to suggest that Boskovsky is actually bad, and I certainly enjoyed the six pieces where I didnít have Stolz performances for comparison, but since the non-specialist listener will presumably want only one of the discs then the Stolz is the one to get, even if it is more fiercely recorded. Honours are about even for the booklet notes.

Christopher Howell


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