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Franz LEHÁR (1870 - 1948)
Die lustige Witwe Overture (1940)
Altenwiener Liebeswalzer (1911)
Der Gottergatte Overture (1903)
Wilde Rosen (Boston Waltz) (1921)
Clo-Clo Overture (1924)
Grutzner-Walzer (1895)
Adria Walzer (1895)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michail Jurowski
Rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin 18-19 May 2000, 12-13 April 2002. DDD
co-production between CPO and Deutschland Radio Berlin.
CPO 999 891-2 [51.09]


CPO is in the process of recording a series of the orchestral, operatic, vocal and instrumental works of Franz Lehár. In addition there is a recording of a complete concert conducted by Lehár himself, which was recorded in Saarbrucken in 1939. CPO are doing the composer proud. The majority of these recordings have been produced as co-productions between CPO and various German radio organisations. Previous issues of orchestral works have concentrated on unusual repertoire by the composer, whereas this one primarily contains music for which the composer is best known: music for the dance hall, with three overtures thrown in for good measure.

Michail Jurowski has the full measure of these works, and he produces a natural ebb and flow, with a distinctly Viennese character. He is aided and abetted by an orchestra with a long and distinguished history of playing this kind of music (remember Strauss waltzes under Ferenc Fricsay). Allied to this, we also have a recording quality that is up to excellent broadcasting standard, thus making this a highly desirable issue.

Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) operetta has been recorded many times by many famous conductors as well as by some who are not so famous. The overture has not been so lucky. This is due to the fact that Lehár wrote it much later in his life for a production of the operetta in 1940 in Vienna, some 35 years after the first performance. This was to celebrate the composerís seventieth birthday. For this occasion, he surpassed himself, writing an extended full scale miniature masterpiece, made up from themes from the main work, but subjected to extensive modification and to instrumentation that was extremely advanced.

Altwiener Liebeswalzer (Old Vienna Love Waltz) evokes memories of the good old days in Vienna. It was renamed by the publishers as Aus der guten alten zeit (from the good old days). Lehár recalls the great Viennese waltz The Blue Danube, although in his hands the disillusionment manifests itself in that the Danube is now grey.

Gottergatten, or (Divine Spouses) is an operetta overture written in Lehárís normal vein for this kind of piece. It is a simple pot-pourri of themes from the operetta including a whole section lifted from the finale. The plot includes Jupiter and Mercury, in disguise, attempting to seduce their respective wives. This obviously causes much confusion, which is the mainstay of such dramatic works.

Wilde Rosen was originally entitled Chrysanthemum Waltz, and was Lehárís next to last work in this form. It is shorn of its slow Straussian introduction and launches straight into the action. It is no longer a traditional waltz, but a three part rondo, with the third interval chains of the legato middle section pointing to Boston.

The overture to Clo-Clo is a another pot-pourri of themes from the operetta. It is very straightforward, proving once again the composerís mastery of the form. Unfortunately, by 1924, this type of work was on the wane.

The last two pieces on this excellent disc are waltzes in the traditional manner. Grutzner Walzer is unique in that it was never published and has not been performed many times since it was written. This is doubly strange in that almost everything that the composer produced was snatched from his pen, almost before the ink was dry.

Adria Walzer (Adriatic Waltz) is one of Lehárís more conventional waltzes, but in common with some of his other works in this guise, there is no slow introduction. The waltz launches immediately into the action, sounding as though Bohemia was visiting the seaside.

You will have gathered that I have enjoyed this disc very much, and that I can recommend it without qualification. If I have spent more time concentrating upon the works themselves rather than the performances, this should be taken as confirmation that I have no qualms whatsoever about the interpretations, the playing or the recording.

John Phillips



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