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Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916)
Die Biene, Polka française, op. 54 [3:53]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)
Die Libelle, Polka mazur, op. 204 [5:11]
Dorfschwalben aus Österreich, Walzer, op. 164 [8:27]
Feuerfest!, Polka française, op. 269 [3:07]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Ouvertüre zur Operette Der Zigeunerbaron [7:49]
Furioso, Polka quasi Galopp, op. 260 [2:15]
Im Krapfenwaldl, Polka française, op. 336 [4:02]
Auf der Jagd, Polka schnell, op. 373 [2:03]
Rosen aus dem Süden, Walzer, op. 388 [8:20]
Tritsch-Tratsch, Polka schnell, op. 214 [2:27]
Frühlingsstimmen, Walzer, op. 410 [7:01]
Unter Donner und Blitz, Polka schnell, op. 324 [2:50]
Wiener Symphoniker/Manfred Honeck
rec. 15-17 January 2014, Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
WIENER SYMPHONIKER WS005 [57:35]

With the exception of Vienna’s New Year's Concert it is rare these days to encounter releases of music from the Strauss family. The phenomenal success of the flamboyant Dutch violinist André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra doesn’t seem to have created a resurgence in interest. So it’s cause for celebration that Manfred Honeck has recorded a splendid programme of waltzes, polkas, galops and an overture from three brothers of the Strauss family dynasty. Released on Wiener Symphoniker’s own label we have eight works from eldest brother Johann II, three from middle brother Josef and a polka from youngest brother Eduard.
 
All twelve works are relatively well known. Most of them, the waltzes Dorfschwalben aus Österreich (Village Swallows from Austria) and Rosen aus dem Süden (Roses From the South), and the quick polkas Tritsch-Tratsch and Unter Donner und Blitz (Thunder and Lightning) are repertoire staples. As the Strauss family wrote such a vast number of works I was a little disappointed that one or two of the lesser known works were not selected. Nevertheless I was delighted that a personal favourite of mine Die Libelle (The Dragonfly), a polka mazur, with its glorious main melody, was selected.
 
As music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck may spend a considerable amount of time in the United States but he is Austrian-born and bred. He clearly revels in the music of the Strauss family having firsthand experience of playing the viola in the Wiener Philharmoniker early in his career. The Wiener Symphoniker also knows this music so intimately that it could be said to run through its veins like lifeblood. It’s the palpable enthusiasm and professionalism of the players that prevents the music coming across as stale and over-familiar. Throughout they demonstrate a fresh and authentic Viennese lilt in the waltzes and an unerring charm. There’s also sparkling exuberance in the marches, galops and polkas.
 
Less than sixty minutes playing time is ungenerous but you may overlook this as the quality of the playing is gratifyingly high. I don’t usually comment on booklet essays but this one written by Josef Tichý in an English translation is first class and there are a number of fascinating photos included too. Recorded earlier this year the sound engineers are to be congratulated for providing clear, well balanced sonics. This is a captivating release, highly desirable for lovers of music from the Strauss family.
 
Michael Cookson