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Viennese Waltzes and Polkas
Johann STRAUSS II
(1825-1899)
: Künstlerleben Waltz op. 316; Éljen a Magyar Schnell-Polka; Wo die Zitronen Blühen Waltz; Schatzwalzer from Der Zigeunerbaron op. 418 (arr. Anton Webern); Wein, Weib und Gesang Waltz op. 333 (arr. Alban Berg)
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870) Dynamiden (Geheime Anziehungskräfte) Waltz op. 173; Frauenherz-Polka op. 166
Johann STRAUSS II and Josef STRAUSS Pizzicato-Polka
Wiener Streichsextet
Recorded at ‘Schloss Grafenegg’, Haitzendorf, Austria 11/02 DDD
PAN CLASSICS 510 159 [50:42]

 

The Vienna String Sextet was founded in 1979 and has dedicated itself to performing the string sextet and quintet repertoire of composers such as Mozart, Brahms and the Second Viennese School. Unfortunately this ensemble held its farewell tour last year. It will be greatly missed as it rates highly for the style and sparkle of its playing.

The Sextet often used a Strauss waltz or polka as an encore at the end of a concert and these arrangements are ideal for this purpose. The playing here is admirable with a sophistication of beat and phrasing which goes with the territory. The only problem with these transcriptions is that when heard one after the other, the ear begins to seek for other colourations. A comparison, for example of the sound of the waltz Kunstlerleben with the orchestral version (as heard in the venerable 1947 recording by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan) shows how much is gained by the sounds from a full orchestra and also the extra dynamic range used.

Apart from the last two waltzes, which fall into a different category from the other pieces, the provenance of the versions played are not stated. Pizzicato-Polka appears to be a scaled down version of the orthodox scoring but the other pieces are normally heard in full orchestral scoring.

The arrangements by Anton Webern and by Alban Berg are in a quite different category. These were written for a money-raising concert in 1921 together with an arrangement by Arnold Schönberg of Roses from the South (he also later wrote a similar arrangement of Emperor Waltz). These rather quirky arrangements make fascinating listening and they succeed in casting a new light on the genius of Johann Strauss. There is sufficient space to have included the two Schönberg pieces, which are in my opinion better than the two included here. A very good recording of these four pieces is included in CPO 999 588-2, performed by the Vienna String Quartet.

A rather superior cardboard folder is used to present the disc; the booklet has an interesting essay about the Strauss family and of the arrangements by the composers of the Second Viennese School but disappoints by not discussing the two pieces by Joseph Strauss, which will be unknown to most listeners. The recorded sound is excellent


Arthur Baker



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