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Johann STRAUSS (1804-1849)
Johann Strauss I Edition -vol. 24
Brünner National-Garde-Marsch, op. 231 [2:18]
Landes-Farben (Schwarz-Roth-Gold) - Walzer, op. 232 [7:02]
Huldigungs-Quadrille, op. 233 [5:35]
Louisen-Quadrille, op. 234 [5:48]
Piefke und Pufke-Polka, op. 235 [2:18]
Damen-Souvenir-Polka, op. 236 [2:41]
Des Wanderers Lebewohl - Wälzer, op. 237 [11:55]
Alice-Polka op. 238 [2:46]
Frederika-Polka, op. 239 [3:04]
Triumph-Marsch (Zwei Märsche der königlichen spanischen Nobelgarde, op. 240 no.1) [3:56]
Manövrir-Marsch (Zwei Märsche der königlichen spanischen Nobelgarde, op. 240 no.2) [2:11]
Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina/Christian Pollack
rec. Fatra House of the Arts, Žilina, Slovakia, 24-26 November 2012.
MARCO POLO 8.225344 [49:35]

Vive la Danse!, Es ist nur ein Wien!: the 24th instalment of Naxos qua Marco Polo's recording of the complete works of Johann Strauss the elder, father to the more celebrated composers Johann junior, Josef and Eduard. These are new recordings, Marco Polo having been reanimated by HNH/Naxos to continue, among other things, the Strauss family editions begun two decades ago. Johann II's complete orchestral works were issued across an incredible 51 volumes in the early 1990s, followed by 26 devoted to Josef (1993-2002). The Johann I project itself began back in 2003, and given that his works have been presented more or less in chronological/opus order, it must now be nearing its end - the present works date to 1849, the year of his untimely death. However, at the time of writing (December 2013) a 25th disc has just been released, which does not quite exhaust the 251 opus numbers - let alone the works without opus numbers, unpublished items, orchestral transcriptions and those of doubtful authenticity (see also review of volume 23).
 
Vienna-born Strauss expert Christian Pollack is a veteran of both the earlier Josef and Johann II editions. Under his attentive and dance-inclined guidance, the Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina, apparently "one of the best known professional orchestras in Eastern Europe", have shown themselves to be a fairly capable outfit. Their recordings in this series, though patchy in places, have ranged from the solid-cum-stolid to the well-groomed professional - a characterisation that often applies to Strauss's music.
 
A selection of the composer's 'hits' can be found on the countless albums that feature the music of his sons, such as the annual Vienna Philharmonic/New Year's Day recordings. No doubt many will feel that that is sufficient quantity - he must, after all, be ranked below his three musical sons as a composer. On the other hand, the phenomenal and unabated success of André Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra indicates the presence of a substantial audience for Strauss's brand of lightsome polkas and waltzes. In truth there is nothing on the present volume that can be considered essential Strauss. There’s little that even goes beyond the routine, with so-so tunes, medium tempos and unchanging dynamics pretty much all the way through. Nonetheless, for undemanding 'light classics' à la Rieu - but minus the cheese - this may well suffice.
 
As mentioned above, works featured here date from early 1849. Reflections of the tumultuous Europe-wide events of the previous year can be seen in some of the titles, if not the music, which have a military, royal or nationalistic flavour. As odd as it may seem, monarchist Strauss was right in the thick of the political action, writing music for both conservatives and radicals to suit the occasion. An example of this tightrope can be seen in the work he originally called Schwarz-Roth-Gold ('Black-Red-Gold') - the colours of united Germany. This was wisely issued after reinstallation of the old guard as Landes-Farben ('National Colours') by his publishers.
 
Unlike most preceding volumes, timing here is very ungenerous, a factor which may push some to discount this particular disc. Sound quality is pretty good though, and the English-German booklet is surprisingly informative about each individual work, whilst providing no general biography of Strauss nor any information on the Marco Polo edition itself.
 
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