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Gruss aus Baden-Baden!
Miloslaw KOENNEMANN (1826-1890)

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

La Princesse de Trébizonde – overture (1869)
Konradin KREUTZER (1780-1849)

Das Nachtlager von Grenada – overture (1834)
Jean-Baptiste ARBEN (1825-1889)

Fantasie and Variations on Carnival of Venice*
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

Ballsträusschen Op.380 (1878)
Lob der Frauen Op.315 (1866-67)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

La colombe – entr’acte (1860)
Matthias Höfs (trumpet)*
Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra/Werner Stiefel
Recorded in the Kurhaus Baden-Baden, 1994 (Offenbach, Gounod), 1995 (Koennemann, Kreutzer, Arban) and 2003 (Strauss)


Here’s a postcard from that august nineteenth century watering hole and spa, Baden-Baden. Not that it lacks visitors now but its heyday was in the Imperial splendour of the mid-century when artists, writers, composers and royalty flocked to spend a restful idyll there. Amongst them was the itinerant Mark Twain whose witty later recollections of a performance he heard of Koennemann’s Der Fremersberg are reprinted. This was a work inspired by the surrounding countryside and written by the accomplished Prague-born band conductor soon after he made Baden-Baden his home. Stirring and full of nature depiction its centrepiece is a percussion and brass inspired storm of mountain top shaking vehemence. There’s plenty of frolicsome writing as well as some Rossininian sparkle, topped by a stirring finale. No wonder Twain was impressed.

The Offenbach is a vigorous overture, though one in this performance where the brass tends to overbalance the strings and the Kreutzer is a Schumannesque overture to his 1834 opera Das Nachtlager von Grenada. We also have a spa band favourite, the Fantasie and Variations on Carnival of Venice by Jean-Baptiste Arban, a famous trumpet showpiece full of virtuosic flight. It’s played here by Matthias Höfs whose tonguing is formidable and nonchalant. As a pendant there is a brace of Strauss – the Lob der Frauen is particularly full of rhythmic vivacity – and to finish we have a restful encore, Gounod’s entr’acte to La colombe (1860) which comes as balm after the loquacious vivacity earlier on.

Notes are good. The performances have apparently been available on CD locally, which I assume mean limited distribution by the orchestra in Baden-Baden – but this is the first time they have received international distribution. All very competently done by Sterling.

Jonathan Woolf

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