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Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899)
A Tribute to Johann Strauss - Echoes from Vienna: Songs with orchestra and orchestral pieces

Wiener blut
Wo die zitronen bluhn
Draussen Insievering
Die Fledermaus ouverture
Spiel 'Ich Die Unschuld Vom Lande
Frutti Di Mare
Pesther Czardas
Pizzicato Polka
Wienerwald Lerchen
Einmal Nur Im Leben

Sumi Jo (sop)
Symphonieorchester der Wiener Volksoper/Rudolf Bibl
Rec. Vienna, 1999.
WARNER ERATO 3984-25500-2 [68.05]

Sumi Jo’s website

Sumi Jo is ideal in these songs. They mingle an ineffably creamy richness and the lightest fly-away spirit. Echt Wienerisch indeed!

None of this should surprise us. Sumi Jo was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1962. In 1983 a passionate commitment to music took her to Rome and the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. There she studied vocal music and keyboard. Karajan soon took her under his wing and following a Salzburg audition in 1988 she was selected by him to sing the role of Oscar in a production of Un Ballo in Maschera. One of the world’s top-flight coloraturas she has sung Queen of the Night, Lucia, Zerbinetta, Fiorilla and Amina in the world's great opera houses. She has sung for Solti and Bonynge and her questing spirit is also reflected in her recital disc Carnival! in which she aided and abetted the always exploring Richard Bonynge in reviving various coloratura rarities.

With this as a backdrop we should not be surprised at her spectacular versatility. This is eminently in evidence in the steadied lilt of Draussen In Sievering (listen to her singing over the central pizzicato) but she shines in these songs time after time. No mere technician of the vocal chords, she sings intelligently with both heart and head in gear. Each phrase is pointed with poignant balance. Secure in her seemingly invincible technique, she delights the listener every step of the way. The hallmark of her singing is an alpine clarity.

The Volksoper is in far better touch with the floating romance of this music than the artistic sumos of the Wienerphilharmoniker. Listen for example to the hushed mystery of Wiener Blut. Bibl’s name was new to me but watch out for it again. Those who learnt their Strauss from the Willy Boskovsky Decca LPs will wonder if that plush mantle has now settled on Bibl's shoulders.

The disc is well-stocked with four of the thirteen tracks being purely orchestral and the rest with Jo (and orchestra of course). There is a new-minted crispness about the contribution of every participant.

Notes are excellent and full texts are given.

Why 'echoes'? This lovely sequence is neither echo nor shadow but a direct and authentic voice of the light Viennese tradition. Go get it all Strauss fans.

Rob Barnett

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