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Gruss aus Baden-Baden!

Der Fremersberg (1853)
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Overture: La Princesse de Trébizonde (1869)
Konradin KREUTZER (1780-1849)

Overture: Das Nachtlager von Granada (1834)
Jean-Baptiste ARBAN (1825-1889)

Fantasie und Variationen über den ‘Karneval in Venedig’ *
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1889)

Ballsträusschen (1878)
Lob der Frauen (1866/7)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

La Colombe (Entr’acte aus der Oper) (1860)
*Matthias Höfs (trumpet)
Baden-Badener Philharmonie/Werner Stiefel
Recorded in Weinbrennersaal des Kurhauses, Baden-Baden in June 1994, April 1995 and April 2003
STERLING CDS-1062-2 [55:50]


What a delightful collection this is; nothing serious, nothing profound, just fun.

All the works are associated with the celebrated German spa town, known as the ‘summer capital of Europe’ that attracted the rich and the famous seeking rest and cures throughout the 19th century. So many prominent artists visited, amongst them: Paganini, Berlioz, Liszt, Clara Schumann, Brahms, Mark Twain, Dostoyevsky and Turgenyev. It was important that guests were catered for in a musical as well as a medical sense

The main work, lasting almost 20 minutes, is Koennemann’s Der Fremersberg, premiered in Baden-Baden in 1853. Koennemann had moved from Prague to Baden-Baden and was to work there until his death in 1890. Der Fremersberg is a musical tribute to a mountain in the vicinity of the spa. Listening to it today one might be forgiven for thinking it was film music, it is so graphic. The style is eclectic and the influences many: Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann especially. The work is in four sections played without breaks. It opens with a hunting scene with horn calls and regal fanfares echoing around the sound-stage as the margrave and his followers canter and gallop into view. Serene pastoral music follows as the hunters disperse. Rustic folkdance-and-song-like material follows as villagers enjoy the sunshine but an approaching storm scatters their celebration. Cue-in all sorts of effects, bass drum rolls becoming evermore furious, rattles, firecrackers, a wind machine – it is as if Ferde Grofé has been let loose in Baden-Baden. This really is a hell of a storm and fantastic fun. The poor margrave is isolated in all this violence, he breaks down, prays and in the nick of time is saved by the sound of the ringing of a hermit’s bell and the sound of praying monks that lead him to the Fremersberg monastery. All ends peacefully as everybody (well the orchestra) intones a grateful Te Deum.

Baden-Baden vied with Paris for the attention of Offenbach. A series of his operettas were performed there and a new ‘opéra bouffe’, La Princesse de Trébizonde was premiered at the Spa on 31st July 1869. It told the story of an apparently hopeless romance between a prince and a circus artist (it had a happy ending). The overture has the typical Offenbach high spirits and sparkle mixed with something of Gilbert and Sullivan-like pathos.

Konrad Kreutzer’s Das Nachtlager von Granada music was played at the inauguration of the new Baden-Baden Theatre on 6th August 1862 by the sovereign, the Grand Prince of Baden. The work is therefore suitably regal and noble with a darker, stormy middle section and jolly hunting music.

Of course Baden-Baden catered for devotees of both afternoon bandstand concerts and evening symphony concerts. One can imagine Arban’s Carnival in Venice fantasy and variations being a favourite afternoon choice. Jean-Baptiste Arban was the renowned soloist ‘on a new instrument on which everything was playable, from the soulful to the virtuosic and which therefore became very popular: the cornet à pistons, which came to be generally known simply as the piston. It was a peculiarly French variation of the trumpet, following the invention of valves (pistons) in 1825. It was softer in tone and ‘spoke’ more quickly than the regular trumpet and was long popular in French orchestras. Matthias Höfs shows incredible virtuosity, speed and clarity, in his playing of this well-known tune. One can imagine audiences going wild and demanding repeats again and again. Another very memorable track.

Johan Strauss II visited Baden-Baden on three occasions and gave highly acclaimed concerts with the Baden-Baden orchestra. The two Strauss numbers here are sheer delight. Ballsträusschen is all gaiety and sparkle while Lob der Frauen is more dreamily romantic.

The music of another Baden-Baden visitor, Charles Gounod, ends the concert. The Entr’acte from his opera La colombe is limpid, dainty ballet-like

Werner Stiefel and his Baden-Baden players deliver sparkling unrestrained performances and once again we are grateful to Sterling for premieres of so much charming music.

Nothing serious, nothing profound; this is a fun collection that sparkles - sheer delight.

Ian Lace

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

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