RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Dances of Old Vienna: The ‘Old Year’s Concert’
Willi Boskovsky Ensemble
rec. Baumgarten Hall, Vienna, 1960-1962. ADD/stereo
Full track-listing at end of review
ALTO ALC1237 [78:48]
This is sheer delight. You are probably reading the review early in 2014 and thinking about obtaining the recording of the most recent New Year’s Concert from the Vienna Phil when it appears. I’m sure it will be well worth having and I’ll almost certainly want it myself, probably as a download - I’m writing in advance of the event - but I’d go for this Alto CD first. Enjoyable as the full-scale performances are, these small-scale versions, with Willi Boskovsky leading from the first violin - their original direction and scoring - are even more delectable.
There are other small-scale recordings, on Naxos, but they are best regarded as supplementing these Boskovsky versions rather than as alternatives on CD or as downloads: Dance Music from Old Vienna (8.555689 - can be downloaded from Classicsonline) is performed by the Vienna Dance Quartet while there’s a slightly fuller sound on Music from Old Vienna performed by Thalia-Schrammeln (8.550228 - from Classicsonline). Both come with pdf booklet and both can be streamed from Naxos Music Library. There’s only one Strauss work (from Johann II) on the second album, where most of the music is by violinist brothers Johann and Josef Schrammel, whose ensemble with a guitar and clarinet is depicted on the CD cover.
Not long ago I reviewed another Alto recording of the Schubert Octet, a classic 1958 version from the Vienna Octet, a group in which Willi Boskovsky played a prominent part. (ALC1227 - review.) That recording was rounded off with the Tokyo Quartet in the Quartettsatz and, I was delighted to see, a short 17-minute selection of Schubert’s music from the recordings of Viennese Dances which Boskovsky had made with his own ensemble, all front-desk players with the Vienna Philharmonic, in the early 1960s. Much as I enjoyed that version of the Schubert Octet - well worth having even if you have other, more recent recordings - the recording of his dances made that CD even more desirable.
I expressed the hope in that review that Musical Concepts would release some or all of the other Vanguard recordings of the Boskovsky Ensemble, long hard to obtain in the UK. That review had scarcely gone online when I saw that this second volume had, indeed, appeared on the budget-price Alto label. I need hardly say any more - this release is virtually self-recommending to all but the hardest of musical hearts.
It was a wise decision to group a set of Schubert dances together on that earlier release and to arrange all the works by the various composers together on this, beginning with a run of items by Johann Strauss I, rather than have them scattered across the albums as Vanguard did when they reissued them. As well as mostly less familiar works by Johann Strauss senior and junior there’s music here by the less well-known Josef, whose music always tends to dig a little deeper, and by Mayer and Stelzmüller, who were very important in their own time but have sunk so far that I can’t even locate their dates. Haydn and Schubert also prove that they could let their hair down when necessary. Yes, the Franz Grüber who arranged the traditional dances at the end of the CD is the composer of Stille Nacht.
The re-mastered recording sounds very well indeed. Vanguard were noted for the quality of their recordings, made on wider tape than was usual, and these reissues are licensed from them, so no problems with dubbing from LP; it’s all bright and fresh to match the music and the performances.
There are informative notes in the booklet, derived from the Vanguard CDs and translated from original notes by Dr Alexander Weinmann. They are certainly good enough to put some other budget labels to shame for providing no or very skimpy notes. An alert proof-reader would have spotted that track 9 is listed in the notes as Wiener-Gemüths Waltz but on the track-list and again on the back cover as Weiner-Gemüths. I take Wiener, as also per the Vanguard CD, (the pleasures of Vienna) rather than Weiner (the pleasures of wine) to be correct.
I’m indebted to the notes for the explanation of some of the titles such as Kettenbrücke Waltz (lit. ‘chain bridge’ = suspension bridge), derived from its first performance in a hall of that name.
When Vanguard reissued these recordings on CD on their own label, the timings were slightly stingy, coming in at around or just under an hour each. The Alto release represents a big improvement on the time of those Vanguard CDs.
The original LP sleeves, as released in the UK on Fontana, were not in the best of taste, one featuring a pink lady with a pigeon against a pink background, as I recall. The Vanguard CDs were rather better but the Alto cover is better still, setting the photo of Boskovsky which Vanguard used on their CDs against an appropriately festive background. I’m pleased to say that it atones for the cover of the Schubert Octet, on which, perhaps unjustly, I commented adversely.
Unhesitatingly, then, I urge you to go for this CD. Make it a double order if you haven’t yet bought the earlier Schubert disc, and look out for what I hope will be further riches from this source - there’s at least two other CD’s-worth to choose. I have three of the Vanguard CDs but missed the fourth, Creampuffs from Vienna, so I hope some or all of the music from that will feature. Be careful what you pay - one hopeful online seller is currently offering this at £12.31 when you can purchase direct from MusicWeb International for £5.99, post-paid in UK and EU.
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Chinese Galops [1:44]
Kettenbrücke Waltz [4:20]
Eisele und Beisele Sprunge [1:52]
Cachucha Galopp [2:14]
Beliebte Annen Polka, Op.137 [2:30]
Hofball-tanze (Court ball dances) [4:53]
Seufzer Galopp, Op.9 (Sighing Galop) [1:41]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Wiener-Gemüths Waltz [6:02]
Champagne Galopp [1:25]
Josef LANNER (1801-1843)
Die Werber Waltz (The suitors) [7:06]
Styrian Dances [5:28]
Abendsterner Waltzer (Evening stars) [6:38]
Neue Wiener Ländler [4:34]
Johann MAYER (?)
Schnofler Tanz [4:08]
Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Zingarese Nos. 1, 6, 8 [2:55]
Vinzenz STELZMULLER (?)
Stelzmuller Tanz [1:33]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)
Marien-Klänge Waltz, Op.214 [7:28]
Traditional, arr. Franz GRUBER (1787-1863)
Dances of Old Vienna (selection) [4:40]
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