Waves of the Danube
Carmen Sylva, waltz [7:40]
Waves of the Danube, waltz [4:22]
Mariana, polka [2:47]
Incognito, waltz [10:20]
Farewell Focsani, march [3:09]
Agatha, waltz [8:51]
Lovely Sounds, polka [4:23]
Wild Flowers, waltz [8:14]
Evening Dream, polka mazur, [4:41]
Magic of the Mountains, waltz [8:47]
Storm, galop [2:33]
Romanian Heart, waltz [6:50]
Patricia Seymour (soprano) (Waves of the Danube)
Banatul Philharmonic Orchestra/Ion Iancu
rec. 3-6 April, 2004, Timisoara, Romania
ELECTRECORD EDC 600 [72:31]
Iosif Ivanovici was the Romanian Johann Strauss. That is, I hope, not a belittlement of his talents; Ivanovici was one of the very best light-music composers of the 19th century, on a level with the Strauss family or Franz von Suppé. This album provides a well-played and well-recorded opportunity to discover a modest portion of his legacy.
Ivanovici is known among Viennese music fans, if at all, as the composer of the waltz “Danube Waves,” but in fact all of his waltzes seem to have been lovely, lyrical concoctions. “Carmen Sylva” and “Romanian Heart” are two examples of a rare thing indeed: a waltz in minor key, with emotional depth added to the usual charming lilt. “Carmen Sylva”, especially, will long remain in my memory, thanks to a mysterious opening which has no parallel in the waltz canon.
“Agatha”, too, is truly beautiful, with an expansive main tune, and “Wild Flowers” has an appropriately charming introduction and remarkably skilful wind and horn writing - though the orchestration is by Sergiu Sarchizov from the surviving piano score. “Magic of the Mountains” features a beautiful clarinet solo leading into the main waltz theme, which is, contrary to the Viennese tradition, introduced by the lower strings.
In fact, my least favorite waltz on the disc is the most famous one, “Danube Waves”. Perhaps I would like the work more were it liberated from the soprano part, which suffers from Patricia Seymour’s rather unappealingly screechy voice.
The polkas, marches and galops which round out the CD are not as distinguished as the waltzes, on the whole, and the reason for this is that Ivanovici had a remarkable fondness for the kind of expressive, big-hearted lyricism possible in the waltz form. The polka “Lovely Sounds” comes closest to capturing the larger works’ deep loveliness, although the “Storm” Galop is, if not terribly original, at least pretty catchy.
The Banatul Philharmonic Orchestra will never be mistaken for one of the world’s great ensembles, but it does a very good job here, and certainly the performers cannot be faulted for their work. Conductor Ion Iancu, 73 when these recordings were made, is clearly a deep believer in Ivanovici’s cause. Behind the scenes an extraordinary amount of work was put into this production, as explained in the helpful liner-notes; Ivanovici’s musical legacy has been poorly maintained, and researchers had to assemble the parts from disparate sources or, in most cases, orchestrate the music anew based on what was known of the composer’s personal style. Most of the orchestrations are by Sergiu Sarchizov, though a few are by John Georgiadis. The result must be counted a triumph for researchers and performers, and a boon for us, the listeners.
Johann Strauss the younger will always hog the spotlight at New Year’s concerts and in the hearts of light music fans, but on the basis of this disc Iosif Ivanovici was very nearly his equal in endearing melodies, and fully at his level in the creation of a heartfelt, romantic mood. It’s about time that Ivanovici’s waltzes got the attention they deserve, and Iancu and the Banatul Philharmonic make as convincing a case for them as we are likely to hear. For any fan of the genre, this disc is a must.