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MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund)

Schweizer Oktett

[Swiss Folk Music]
Walser / Evviva I Soci
Walser / Das Leben ein Traum
Walser / Mazurka aus dem Jura
Walser / Wehntalerpolka
Lohmann / Dreimäderlhaus am Obetor
Walser / Zum Carneval
Walser / Em Antonio sine
Walser / Limmat-Walzer
Burkard / Gallus-und-Evna-Walzer
Alder / Innerhoder Walzer
Alder / Nicht ganz allein
Walser / Alewander
Alder / Der Winzel kommt
Walser / Plaffeier Chilbimusig
Walser / Föif gage Drüü
Janett / Bibere-Walzer
Recorded at Evang. Kirche, Reutlingen-Gönningen on 4-6 March, 2002 DDD
MGB CD 6187 [54:08]


I admit it. The folk music of Switzerland is something that I know little about. To me the Swiss are good bankers, watch makers, cheese makers and chocolatiers. Before exposure to this CD, I cannot with any certainty say that I had ever heard of a Swiss folk song. I believe that I had a vague idea that there might be an alphorn involved somewhere, and perhaps a lederhosen-clad accordion player with his best buddy playing a tuba and someone they picked up along the way with a clarinet. That was the closest I would have been able to guess.

The Schweizer Oktett (literally, the Swiss Octet) set about the process of not only educating me, but demonstrating the excellent quality of Swiss folk music and making me a fan with vigor and professionalism. They are a group of musicians of the highest caliber, representing the best of Swiss musicianship. Each member studied in a Swiss conservatory, and now plays in the most renowned of Swiss orchestras. They selected traditional Swiss melodies, notated by the preeminent Swiss musicologist of the last century, Hanny Christen. The arrangements are all by members of the Schweizer Oktett. Even the album title Heimwäarts, which means "Homeward bound", points to this Swiss-centricity. Thus if there were ever to be a genuine Swiss album to introduce me to the merits of Swiss music, this would be the ideal setup.

The music is reserved, danceable and absolutely charming. The musicianship is exquisite. There are a variety of selections in what I am told are the most representative kinds of music represented by the great weight of Swiss folk music. The most familiar of these tunes is the Schottisch "Em Antonion sine", which was quoted in works by both Vivaldi and Franz Schubert. The latter used the traditional melody as a central theme in his widely known Octet in F major (D803). Aside from the "Scottish dances", there are a myriad of waltzes and a smattering of mazurkas as well as a polka and a march. The works are exquisitely arranged and performed.

Generally each tune is performed at the highest level. The players are virtuosos, and each performance is flawless. It is easy to imagine a high court ball with these eight men providing the nobility their entertainment for the evening. If this is an album of folk tunes in their traditional form, the Swiss must, musically speaking, truly have had the most well trained working class in the history of mankind. However, if this is to be an example of the apex of Swiss music, this succeeds. The arrangements sound very reminiscent of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert or Strauss, and they are performed flawlessly.

This album is simply a wonderful rendering of quaint folk songs. There is nothing experimental that the casual listener or anyone untrained in music would find the least bit offensive. In fact, if this album has a fault at all, it would be in its lack of experimentalism. However, considering that this is intended to be an album showcasing the very highest quality of Swiss folk music, there is little that could be said other than it has indeed hit its mark. It is a delightful album.

Patrick Gary


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