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The Great Waltzes - The Essential Collection
see end of review for details
NAXOS 8.578041-42 [70:51 + 76:53] 

Experience Classicsonline

This collection of recycled waltz recordings is issued just as a slew of Andre Rieu albums new and old appear on the market, surely the reason for this double CD set from Naxos. Almost all of these recordings date from the earliest days of Naxos (though no dates are given), from a time when their issues featured unknown conductors with East European orchestras in variable recording conditions. There's no shame in Naxos's humble beginnings, but an issue like this really brings home how far the hugely successful Hong Kong based giant has come in the twenty three years since its creation. 
The good news first: Alfred Walter and the Slovak State Philharmonic are characterful and stylish in the four Waldteufel items, and in reasonable sound to boot. The Skaters is included alongside some of the less famous waltzes, though proximity to Johann Strauss II marks out Waldteufel as the less distinctive and melodically gifted of the two. Lehár'sGold and Silver and Ivanovici's The Danube Waves benefit from the best production - the latter particularly well recorded including a harp of unusual presence.
The disparity of recording quality is a problem, though, and can change markedly from track to track. The opening chords of Waldteufel’s Estudiantina burst forth alarmingly after the relatively quiet volume set by the engineers for the Waltz from Eugene Onegin. The extracts from Tchaikovsky’s ballets are rendered in particularly thin sound and the performances are no more than ordinary: anyone wanting the ballet suites would be better off with Rostropovich’s glorious Tchaikovsky collection with the Berlin Philharmonic, still available as a DG Original (4497262).
The usual Straussian suspects are here, mostly under the solid but uninspiring direction of Ondrej Lenárd. There’s no real magic to the codas of The Blue Danube or The Emperor Waltz, for example, and the playing of the Strauss Festival Orchestra lacks the finesse we’d expect from a modern Naxos recording.
The set as a whole might have been more successful if the net had been cast a little wider: It’s the golden age of the Viennese Waltz that is really celebrated here, and while the Masquerade and Rosenkavalier waltzes included at the end of the second disc extend the remit a little, surely a Chopin waltz (to refute the booklet’s claim that Johann Strauss II is ‘the undisputed grandfather of the waltz’) or Ravel’s seminal genre deconstruction La Valse would have made for a more rounded collection.
Variable performances and too narrow a selection make this a disappointing collection.
Andrew Morris 

Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
1. Gold and Silver [8:39]
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
2. The Nutcracker Suite - Waltz of the Flowers [6:52]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
3. The Blue Danube [9:25]
Émile WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915)
4. The Skaters [7:31]
5. The Merry Widow Waltz [6. 27]
6. The Sleeping Beauty - Act 1 Waltz [4:44]
7. Emperor Waltz [11:16]
8. Serenade for Strings - II Moderato, tempo di valse [3:56]
9. Tales from the Vienna Woods [11:57]
10. Voices of Spring [6:09]
11. Très jolie [8:38]
12. Swan Lake - Waltz [5:49]
Iosif IVANOVICI (1845-1902)
13. The Danube Waves [8:39]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
14. Giselle - Act 1 Waltz [6:23]
15. Eugene Onegin - Waltz [6:23]
16. Estudiantina [6:47]
17. Solitude [9:52]
18. Wine, Women and Song [6:02]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
19. Masquerade - Waltz [4:19]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
20. Der Rosenkavalier - Waltz Sequence no 1 [12:06]
Budapest Strauss Ensemble (13)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (1, 2, 14, 15, 18)
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Košice (4, 6, 11, 12, 16, 17)
Strauss Festival Orchestra (3, 7, 9, 10)
St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra (19)
Vienna Chamber Orchestra (8)
Alfred Walter (4, 16, 17)
Andrew Mogrelia (6)
István Bogár (13)
Michael Dittrich (1)
Michael Halász (12)
Ondrej Lenárd (2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 18, 19)
Philippe Entremont (8)
Richard Hayman and his Orchestra (5)
Zdenĕk Košler (20)
rec. no recording dates or venues supplied.



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