> J Strauss Valses de Vienne [RW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Johann STRAUSS (1801-1849) & Son (1825-1899)
Valses de Vienne

Mady Mesplé, Bernard Sinclair, Christiane Stutzmann, Arta Verlen, Philippe Guadin, Jaques Loreau, Pierre Saugey.
René Duclos Choirs, Orchestra of National Theatre of Opera Comique/Jean Doussard
Rec. 1972, Salle Wagram, Paris, France
EMI 574 103-2 [CD1 44.08 CD2 45.48]
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This is a re-issue by EMI and forms part of their French operettas series reviewed elsewhere on Musicweb UK.

The Viennese works of Johann Strauss and his son, Johann Strauss II need no introduction. The dance scene of Vienna was set alight with the magic of the strong rhythms and characteristically spacious strings of Strauss and his followers. The family history of these remarkable musicians was of much interest to Europeans and Austrians in particular and the music became a fertile source for pastiche (pasticcio) operetta. In 1899 Wiener Blut was concocted from Straussian melodies and other titles followed. Valses of Vienna was originally arranged by Korngold in 1930 as Waltzes of Vienna and it became more popular than Wiener Blut. It was written for the Theater an der Wien in a visually impressive production to cash in on the nostalgia of the past century at a time after a stock market crash when the Viennese needed to be comforted by brighter days. Paris saw this French version shortly afterwards with additional music by Cools and Bittner. As its popularity spread even an early talkie of Waltzes of Vienna was filmed in Britain in 1933 by Hitchcock, but because the studio could not afford the high music royalties some other Strauss pieces were used instead.

Opening with the Radetzky March one might be forgiven for thinking one is in a Vienna's New Year's Day concert. A short voice-over then takes us into the first chorus number which later becomes a reprise of the March. Readers will be interested to know that the numbers are not all written in 3/4 time. One has to work hard to recall the titles of the original music since no help of identification is given in the brief notes. The interesting pizzicato track [CD1 tk21] sounds rather modern for a 19th Century composition of the masters and could be a 1930s creation. In Act III an effective and interesting musical box effect is used [CD2 tk13]. Later, a delightful arrangement, reminiscent of something from the pen of Kern perhaps [CD2 tk18] holds our attention. An uninspired and unmemorable finale eventually rounds off the operetta.

The performance is distantly miked and thus we have a disappointing lack of detail. The soloists blend nicely with the Viennese flavour and the pace set by Doussard is engaging. The diction is poor but appears to be more do with the poor focus of the recording rather than the singers' delivery.

Judging by the length of these CDs either the work is of short duration (less than 90 mins), or the full score and libretto are not recorded. The synopsis and background notes are provided in French only.


Raymond Walker

 


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