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Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Edition Vol. 5
Contredanses op.44 [05:42], Benefice-Walzer op.33 [06:32], Bayaderen-Galoppe op.52 (Lieblings-Galoppe no.36) [02:40], Gute Meinung für die Tanzlust (Waltz) op.34 [06:34], Contratänze op.54 [05:16], Souvenir de Baden (Helenen-Walzer) op.38 [06:12], Zampa-Galopp op.62a [02:19], Tivoli Rutsch-Walzer op.39 [07:26], Montecchi-Galopp op.62b [02:07], Wiener-Damen-Toilette-Walzer op.40 [07:19], Der Raub der Sabinerinnen, Charakteristisches Tongemälde op.43 [10:21], Das Fest der Handwerker (galopp) [01:31], Tivoli Freudenfest-Tänze op.45 [08:10]
Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina/Christian Pollack
Recorded 24th-27th November 2003 at the Fatra Concert Hall, Žilina, Slovakia
MARCO POLO 8.225281 [72:25]


I have reviewed all four previous volumes in this series and, while I commended the general approach of Pollack in the first two, I was delighted to hear the work of the veteran Märzendorfer in volumes 3 and 4, producing two CDs which will surely become classics among Strauss recordings.

My slight disappointment that Pollack is back again for volume 5 has to be tempered by the consideration that he is dedicated heart and soul to this repertoire ; indeed, the editions used come from the Christian Pollack archive. Furthermore, the results of Märzendorfer’s sessions seem to have rubbed off on the orchestra, which, especially during the first half of this CD, produces playing which is far cleaner and clearer in its outlines compared with volume 2, much as it did under the older conductor’s baton. At the same time Pollack, by exerting a less rigid control over the proceedings, allows the orchestra to exude a sense of great enjoyment. For a while it seemed as if we were really getting the best of both worlds, but as the CD went on I began to notice declining standards of intonation and a certain happy-go-lucky air. And, though always sympathetic to the dance and the style, Pollack seems too mild-mannered to whip up, say, an exciting coda. Still, these are likeable, understanding performances, sometimes more than that, and should not disappoint those who are getting to know the elder Strauss.

While the early albums left me wondering if Strauss the father had not been justifiably eclipsed by at least two of his sons, his own particular qualities are now coming into focus. His lively sense of humour, for example, always ready to provide an intriguing aside on popular operas of the day – the Montecchi-Galopp had me almost laughing out loud. He does not yet have the symphonic breadth of Johann II or the appealing melancholy of Josef (though the last waltz here has the violins soaring in an echt-Viennese way), but his bonhomie has its own attractions and it no longer seems so fair that he is remembered almost exclusively for the Radetzky March. The “Wiener-Damen-Toilette-Walzer” could surely take a place among the “standard” repertoire of Strauss waltzes, though it does show that all three sons were better at inventing alluring titles.

With good recording and documentation this proves a worthy follow-up to previous volumes in the series.

Christopher Howell

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