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Joseph LANNER (1801-43)
Neue Wiener Ländler, op.1, Dornbacher Ländler, op.9, Trennungswalzer, op.19, Badner Ringln, op.64, Pesther Walzer, op.93, Die Werber, op.103, Die Kosenden, op.128, Hofballtänze, op.161*, Steyrische Tänze, op.165*, Die Romantiker, op.167, Abend-Sterne, op.180, Die Schönbrunner, op.200*
Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra*/Robert Stolz
Recorded in the Spandauer Festsäle, Berlin and the Grosser Musikvereins-Saal, Vienna 1966-1971
BMG Classics RCA Red Seal 74321 84145 2 [78.25]
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During the 1960s the veteran Robert Stolz (all these recordings were made between the ages of 86 and 91) set down an extensive programme of Viennese operetta and dance music for Eurodisc, issued in the UK by World Record Club. Though RCA tell us nothing of the provenance of the present recordings I take it that they derive from that series.

At the time it was a penny-in-the-slot critical reaction to look on Stolz as a series B figure. Composer of numerous operettas which are not remembered in the way those of Lehár and Kalman are, he recorded in Berlin and Vienna, but with the Symphony Orchestras not the Philharmonics, and for lesser recording companies (happy though RCA are to put them out now). Conventional wisdom had it that he was OK in polkas and marches but could be heavy-handed with a waltz.

Perhaps because in the intervening years some great names have given us a number of fairly lugubrious New Year's Day concerts, I must say this CD doesn't bear out these old prejudices at all. Listen to the really sizzling start of Die Kosenden; such a capacity to galvanise an orchestra would be remarkable at any age, let alone 90. And hear how beautifully sprung the waltz accompaniment is when it starts, and how it never flags. What I will say is that these are performances for the dancing-floor as much as for the concert-room. Stolz may make the odd schmaltzy up-beat, he may sometimes sidle into a new section, but once the dance has started he keeps it going pretty steadily. These are less inflected performances than we usually hear today, and there's reason to suppose they may be the more authentic for that. Far from being a dull dog (and in any case he could be both vital and graceful as required) Stolz upheld a tradition which we ignore at our peril.

The recordings are rather close but have plenty of brilliance, so this is the ideal opportunity to hear Lanner as a change from Strauss. Lanner was the big rival to Strauss Senior, and neither of them was quite on the level of Johann Strauss the younger. It's delightful stuff, with some striking instrumental touches, but don't expect to carry the tunes in your head for days after as you do with the best of Johann Strauss II (except, perhaps, for the perky little tune from the Steyrische Tänze which found its way into Stravinsky's Petrushka).

Christopher Howell

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