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Salon orchestra favourites II
Josef Rixner (1902-73) Blauer Himmel; Luigi Denza (1846-1922) Funiculi, funicula; Georges Boulanger (1893-1958) Avant de Mourir; Ernst Fischer (1900-75) Südlich der Alpen: In einer Hafenstadt; Terrasse am Meer; Blumen-Corso; Tarantella; Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) Blue Tango; A Ferraris (?-?) Schwarze Augen; Gerhard Winkler (1906-77) A Gerhard Winkler Medley (arr Krome); Edgardo Donato (?-?) A media luz; Oscar Fetra (1854-1931) Mondnacht auf der Alster; Mihaly Erdélyi (b 1928) Puszta Fox; Ralph Erwin (1896-1943) Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame; Leroy Anderson (1908-75) Belle of the Ball.
Salonorchester Schwann/Georg Huber

Recorded in the Tonstudio Teeje van Geest, Sandhausen, Germany, (9-11 February 2001)
NAXOS 8.555344 [65:41]


Reviewing a disc containing twelve wall-to-wall Cimarosa overtures (mostly indistinguishable especially since nine of them were in the same key) I recently questioned the justification for many ‘compilation’ discs: are they really worth doing – and for whom are they intended?

No doubts about this one, however. It brilliantly recaptures the golden age (the inter-war years) of the salon orchestra, in a masterly selection which, though built around the idiom of the tango, is richly varied. It will hearten many like myself who can claim to have made a modest contribution to the revival of the popularity of small instrumental groups playing ‘light’ classics.

Naxos/Marco Polo have issued many discs which survey British light music of the twentieth century – but almost invariably in full orchestral form. But the Salonorchester Schwann is entirely true to its name, its eleven members comprising piano, accordion, string quintet, flute/piccolo, two clarinets (one doubling on saxophone) and ‘drums’ (as the scores of the day invariably referred to percussion). A more perfectly-constructed combination for this type of music is hard to imagine

Though no British composers figure in this collection, some at least of the pieces included will be familiar such as Funiculi, funicula (composed in 1880, it became enormously popular, so that, as the interesting programme-booklet reveals, Richard Strauss thought it was a Neapolitan folksong and incorporated it into his Aus Italien). In contrast, but typical of the obscurity into which the origins of some of these pieces has disappeared, is that absolutely nothing is apparently known about the composer, A Ferraris, of an equally familiar piece – Schwarze Augen (Black Eyes).

But what I find most irresistible about this disc is the sheer panache of the playing, which conveys an almost tangible sense of uninhibited enjoyment (allied, needless to say, to effortless virtuosity).

This disc is a must for all who enjoy light music.


Adrian Smith


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