A Viennese Evening
Johann STRAUSS II (1825 - 1899) Overture: Die Fledermaus (1874) [9:27]
Franz LEHÁR (1870 - 1948) Gold and Silver Waltz (1905) [8:50]
Oscar STRAUS (1870 - 1954) My Hero (from Chocolate Soldier) (1908) [5:40]
Carl ZELLER (1842 - 1898) Don’t be Cross (from Master Miner) (1894) [4:48]
Franz LEHÁR On my Lips, Every Kiss is like Wine (from Giuditta) (1934) [6:12]
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819 - 1895) Overture: Beautiful Galatea (1865) [7:38]
Johann STRAUSS II Roses from the South, op.388 (1880) [8:42]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835 - 1916) Bahn Frei! Polka, op.45 [2:53]
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 - 1953) Sylvia’s Entrance (from Czardas Princess) (1915) [3:22]
Franz LEHÁR Vilja (from The Merry Widow) (1905) [6:36]; Czardas (from Gypsy Love) (1910) [4:45]
Johann STRAUSS II Unter Donner und Blitz, Polka Schnell, op.324 (1868) [3:32]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804 - 1849) Radetzky March, op.228 (1848) [3:31]
Sophie Bevan (soprano)
Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, James Blair
rec. live, 30 September 2009, St John’s, Smith Square, London. DDD
YMSO (no catalogue number) [76:02]
This is a nicely unusual collection of Viennese music, for it goes further than the usual Strausses, father and two sons, and Franz Lehár, and brings in both older and newer compositions. The young musicians of the orchestra play with a real spirit and feel for the period. If James Blair isn’t Willi Boskovsky, he still shows a sympathy with the music, and realises that a relaxed approach is best.
The Overture to Die Fledermaus gets things off to a good start, but, probably because the band hadn’t warmed up, the great waltz, which makes up the middle section, doesn’t quite have the swing it should. Things are put right with Lehár’s Gold and Silver Waltz which goes very well indeed, with a good swing and a marvellously uninhibited percussion section. In both these tracks there are some vocal interruptions but whether it’s the conductor or some nutter in the audience I don’t know. My money’s on James exhorting his players to greater heights. If so, he succeeds! It won’t bother you after you’ve heard it a couple of times. The Beautiful Galatea Overture has a nicely jaunty cheekiness to it, and the orchestra offers a fulsome response in the big tune. Roses from the South is well paced and Bahn Frei! is as raucous as you like. Unter Donner und Blitz starts in a rather polite manner, but soon gets going with the entry of the cymbals, then it’s a marvellous romp of a performance.
Sophie Bevan sings her items with a real fervour, never overdoing the emotion, for instance in Lehár’sOn my Lips, Every Kiss is like Wine you can hear a slight sob in her voice, but it’s the merest hint, and not overdone as Gigli had a bad habit of doing. Perhaps she is over-generous with the vibrato, but she can sustain her line above a very full orchestration. Sounding every inch the opera singer she is, her contribution makes a big impact and is most welcome. Incidentally, the opening of the Czardas from Gypsy Love could be a less intense, but equally zigeuner, cousin of the opening of the Boston Pops Orchestra’s famous recording of Jacob Gade’s Jealousy.
This recording was made at a live concert, and there’s a small amount of applause at the end of each piece, which is no problem. The audience joins in for the final Radetzky March and I wonder why it is this piece, above all others, which evokes such a response? No matter. This is a fine performance which rises to the occasion of major crowd-pleaser and audience clap-along.
This is a very pleasant disk, with good playing. There are a couple of rough spots but not so much as will be disturbing to you and a very clean recording. This is most enjoyable, and a very good organisation to support. It receives no support from the government or Arts Council.
Bob Briggs 
This is a very pleasant disk.