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Lou KOSTER (1889-1973)
Orchestral Music
Ouverture légère (1920s) [9:27]
Lore-Lore – Walzersuite, Op. 13 (1914) [7:59]
Heideland – Walzersuite (1920s) [7:53]
Suite dramatique (1920s) [8:20]
Unter blühenden Linden – Walzersuite (1920s) [10:57]
Moselträume – Walzersuite (1920s) [10:45]
Toute vie – Walzer (1920s) [6:13]
Orchestre Estro Armonico Luxembourg/Jonathan Kaell
rec. Conservatoire de Musique de Luxembourg, 25-27 March 2013. DDD
world première recordings
Booklet notes in English and German
NAXOS 8.573330 [61:34]

You know this is going to be light music from a glance at the titles. Koster had a serious side but this is not the burden of this CD. Perhaps we shall at some point hear her thirty songs with orchestra. She set some exalted poets including Verlaine, de Musset, Storm, Keller and Mörike. Just a year before her death there was the première of her most extended work, Der Geiger von Echternach, a ballad for soloists, chorus and orchestra, setting a text by Nikolaus Welter whose poetry was also the subject of at least one of those songs with orchestra. There is even an operetta An der Schwemm (1922).

Music was in Koster's blood. Her grandfather was kapellmeister of Luxembourg's military band and she made short and distinguished work of her studies at the then newly-founded Luxembourg Conservatoire in the 1900s. Her heyday came in the inter-war years and flickered out in the late-1950s. Her name was made by some nicely crafted and fluffy light music which was a strong draw for the rising wireless orchestra audience and the silent films.

There's a lot of waltz-time material in this hour of music. That was her 'bread-and-butter' and she was a skilled practitioner in the genre. Her professionalism can be compared with that of John Foulds in scores such as his overture Le Cabaret and other scores in Dutton's four Foulds volumes. The parallels can be felt in Koster's Ouverture légère which sports both elegance and a surface debt to Schumann. Otherwise the flutter and fluff of so much waltz material meets in a charm and warmth which clearly sings to both orchestra and conductor. From the early Lore-Lore to the preponderance of dance suites from the 1920s this music reaches out in the direction of the Strausses' Vienna. All four of the 'Walzersuites' bear German titles and changes to the accustomed textures are rung in Moselträume with prominent sparkling effervescence from the orchestral piano. The Suite dramatique is in three movements and is only gently divorced from Imperial froth; more akin to the 'exotic' orchestral suites of Charpentier and Massenet. There's a touch of Spanishry in the outer movements and balletic dreaminess in the middle.

The notes are fairly detailed and are especially valuable given that this is pretty much an unknown composer.

If you like your light music sumptuously served up with Viennese cream then do try this. Music that slips along smoothly, with a smile.

Rob Barnett