Contemporaries of the Strauss Family - Volumes 1 and 2
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice/John Georgiadis
rec. House of Music, Pardubice, East of Prague, Czech Republic, 2014 DDD
World première recordings
Two CDs only available separately
MARCO POLO 8.225365/66 [75:01 & 75:51]

These two volumes of dances by contemporaries of the Strauss family introduce us to works of vaguely known or forgotten German and Viennese composers who wrote to satisfy the thirst for popular dance music. Research has been put into finding the archival material and where necessary orchestration for full orchestra. Their sound is recognizably similar to the Straussian style for they build their dance compositions on the recipe that made the Strausses both famous and prosperous — a strong leading note in the bar with a touch of rubato to enthuse the dancer. The waltz, gavotte, polka, mazurka and galop are all represented: marches, mainly of a military nature, also feature. Noticing the high opus numbers, it is clear that these dance pieces were being churned out like hot-cakes at a rate comparable to the British parlour ballad production around this time.

Volume 1 

A haunting introduction to the well-paced Visuri de Aur leads into a relaxed waltz. The harp sets a touch of elegance as one theme runs into others of equal charm. The brass phrases are contrastingly heavy in the middle.

A harp opens the stately In der Sennbutt’n where horns take over and we move forward into the main body of the piece. One notices that Czibulka was a bandmaster and musical director of French opera at Odessa. This piece carries the gentility of the latter.

An alpine picture is provided by the introduction to Uhlenhorster Kinder Waltz before the piece runs into an easy theme with rubato very much in evidence.

Of the Lanner works, the Tourbillon Galop is particularly captivating and carries one along with its energetic overtones. The Bolero is delightful and very different (its slow tempo title seems misleading) and has a gentle, chirpy and catchy main theme. I find it charming with its subtle castanet percussion. The modern orchestral arrangements for the Lanner pieces by John Georgiadis are engaging and nicely arranged.

Schmid’s appealing Anniversary March is a modern composition that has been written in typical Viennese vein.

A barcarolle-style introduction to Casino Tänze Waltz is unexpected but then leads into a flowing waltz very much in the mould of Strauss. Gungl was an Austrian artillery bandmaster who started an orchestra in Berlin that allowed him to travel to the USA where his works started to become better known.

The Telephon Polka Mazurka has a simplicity that gives it a flavour of feminine charm while the Franz Ferdinand March is more robust and is typical of a bandstand programme. Sonntagsreiter Polka Schnell has a ring that will remind some of Strauss’s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.

The Gavotte d’enfants is a work the theme of which turns some unexpected corners while the Estudiantina Polka is an understated piece that would be better as a ballet than as a dance piece, perhaps.

Ziehrer’s output was vast and here in the John March shines with elements that either Suppé took from him or he from Suppé.

The Venus and Erden overture makes a welcome addition to the mix of dance music for it carries a different compositional identity after its opening statement. Marco Polo has previously issued a CD of eleven of Ziehrer’s overtures on 8.225332 and these are also well worth sampling (review).

The disc concludes with Schrammel's Dornbacher Hetz which carries the hallmark of a well-composed march.

Volume 2
Perhaps the best ‘find’ on this disc, is the Mexican, José Rosas (a contemporary of Strauss II) and I decided to study the notes to find out more about him. The introduction to his Ensueño Seductor (Liebestraum) Waltz is charming and is in a category of its own. The languid and flowing main melody is captivating. Interestingly, he teases by including the opening theme of Waldteufel’s Skaters' Waltz (1882), written around the same time, and runs it into a theme of his own; nothing is mentioned about this in the notes. I suspect that this was one of the tunes he regularly churned out as a street musician, yet this orchestration by John Georgiadis is particularly pleasing and novel. Rosas died tragically of spinal myelitis at the young age of 26. He is remembered mostly for his waltz, Sobre las Olas (or Over the Waves).

Prague-born Komzák’s gavotte Die Lautenschlägerin is delightfully delicate and dreamily meanders along. His later composed Blonde Poste Restante Polka Française is more ‘ordinaire’ in comparison.

Perhaps the least Viennese in character is Ivanovici’s L’Odalisque Polka Mazurka. He hails from Romania. As a clarinet and flute player it is no wonder that these instruments feature in this composition, discovered in manuscript form and probably never published. With over 350 dances to his name he won a prize for the best march at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 (review).

Fučík is a Czech composer best known for his Entry of the Gladiators. He was nicknamed the Bohemian Sousa although the resemblance here is not marked. An alive and very different style of piece, with comic trombone interruptions, is his Um Mitternacht March. It's hardly the kind of march intended for the military parade ground, though.

The Niccolo March is bright and stirring punctuated by strong chords and very characteristic of Suppé’s output.

There seems to have been something of an influence of Offenbach on Lincke as one is reminded of Offenbach in the engaging Berliner Luft Overture — known as the unofficial anthem of Berlin. It doesn’t surprise one to find out that he is referred to as the ’father’ of Berlin operetta for his work as a theatre conductor. He may well have conducted some of Offenbach’s operettas and studied their scores.
Die Regimentskinder is a typical parade form of march where trumpet announcements are followed by strong chord statements.

These discs include some haunting tunes that had been forgotten for many years. With assistance from the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain these works have risen to the surface again. The Czech Chamber Philharmonic has brought out good detail in their reading of the scores and the recordings have been made in an ideal ambience by Jiri Štilec’s team. The notes are disappointingly short. I would have enjoyed learning something about the background of the composers themselves and, where known, to have known the dates of composition. Five pages of commentary does not really do justice to such an enterprising project.
Raymond J Walker
Vol. 1
Alfons CZIBULKA (1842-1894)
In der Sennbutt’n – Idyll [2:37]
Philipp FEHRBACH, Son (1843-1894)
Telephon Polka Mazurka Op.128 [4:43]
Franz Ferdinand March Op.333 [2:40]
Sonntagsreiter Polka Schnell Op.339 [3:04]
Oscar FETRÁS (1854-1931)
Uhlenhorster Kinder Waltz Op.40 [8:57]
Joseph GUNG’L (1809-1889)
Casino Tänze Waltz Op.237 [8:36]
Josef HELLMESBERGER, Son (1855-1907)
Gavotte d’enfants [1:36]
Estudiantina Polka [1:47]
Josef IVANOVICI (1845-1902)
Visuri de Aur Waltz [8:48]
Joseph LANNER (1801-1843)
Tourbillon Galop Op.142a [2:24]
Bolero [8:29]
Paul LINCKE (1866-1946)
Venus and Erden overture [8:13]
Carl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)
Steckbrief March-polka [3:10]
Kurt SCHMID (b.1942)
Anniversary March Op.527 [3:03]
Johann SCHRAMMEL (1850-1893)
Dornbacher Hetz March [3:10]
Carl M. ZIEHRER (1843-1922)
John March Op.285 [3:43]

Vol. 2
Oscar FETRÁS (1854-1931)
Blauer Augen, blauer Himmel Waltz, Op.75 [8:59]
Julius FUČÍK (1872-1916)
Die Regimentskinder March Op.169 [4:12]
Um Mitternacht March Op.93 [4:28]
Josef HELLMESBERGER, Son (1855-1907)
Fidele Bruder March [2:45]
Josif IVANOVICI (1845-1902)
Flink wie der Wind Galop Op.129 [2:37]
L’Odalisque Polka Mazurka [4:29]
Erzherzog Carl Ludwig March Op.129 [3:05]
Karl KOMZÁK II (1850-1905)
Die Lautenschlägerin Gavotte Op.119 [3:17]
Blonde Poste Restante Polka Française [5:20]
Joseph LABITZKY (1802-1881)
Immergrun Gallop Op.65 [3:12]
Paul LINCKE (1866-1946)
Im Walzerrausch Waltz [8:42]
Berliner Luft Overture [7:04]
José Juventino ROSAS (1868-1894)
Ensueño Seductor Waltz [8:33]
Johann SCHRAMMEL (1850-1893)
S’gibt nur a Weaner Luft March [2:35]
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Niccolo March [2:27]
Carl ZELLER (1842-1898)
Schön Frau Polka Mazurka [4:06]

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