From the Goldener Saal, Musikverein this album is a recording of the
televised traditional Easter concert of the Wiener Symphoniker’s
Frühling in Wien
(Springtime in Vienna
) and welcomes the
new season with a musical journey through Austria in spring. For more than
40 years the Wiener Symphoniker has been programming the Easter time
concerts Frühling in Wien.
In 2015 Philippe Jordan musical director
of the orchestra took the annual festive concert in a programme of music by
Schubert and here in 2016 the concert is taken by renowned Austrian born
conductor Manfred Honeck with a dance-themed programme of the music of
Vienna. Now music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Honeck
spent eight years as a viola player in the Wiener Philharmoniker. I notice
that the concert included a first half performance of Beethoven’s Piano
Concerto No. 4
played by soloist Hélène Grimaud that is not included on
Where the music of the fashionable Viennese ballroom and concert venue is
concerned it is hard to get past the Strauss family dynasty. Honeck is here
conducting a splendid programme of lighter-vein music. There are waltzes,
polkas, gallops mainly by Austrian composers who have become lesser known
today, Karl Michael Ziehrer and Max Schönherr plus Eduard Strauss, whose
popularity was surpassed by his brothers Johann the younger and Josef.
Ziehrer who was the last music director of the Vienna Imperial Royal Court
Ball and a composer of six hundred works is represented here by two waltzes.
Especially enjoyable is the splendid ‘Hereinspaziert’ markedly rousing with
an infectious melody taken from his operetta ‘Der Schätzmeister’.
There are four pieces by Max Schönherr who was born in Slovakia but was
Austrian by adoption. Although hardly known today Schönherr’s set of
‘Austrian Peasant Dances’ was widely admired in its day. Here Honeck has
chosen three of Schönherr’s ‘Tänze aus Österreich’ (Dances from Austria),
warm and spirited works with significant sparkle.
Dalmatia-born in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz von Suppé is
renowned as a composer of light operas, although his currency has greatly
reduced in recent decades. Suppé’s ‘Leichte Kavallerie’ (Light
) overture remains his best known work. Contained here is the
enduringly popular overture from his operetta Dichter und Bauer
(Poet and Peasant) set in Bavaria and premièred in Vienna in 1846. This is
music of boundless charm and melody with the significant cello part played
quite splendidly by principal Christoph Stradner. I’m sure the rousing
melody in the body of the work will be familiar to many.
One of Richard Strauss’s most idiosyncratic scores, his 1922 ballet
, which means Whipped Cream in Viennese dialect, has
never established a foothold in the repertoire. Written by Strauss as a gift
to the city of Vienna for his sixtieth birthday celebrations, at its
was poorly received, even reviled by some
critics who considered it nothing but kitsch
. Nevertheless even if
it doesn’t have wide appeal as a ballet it does have music worth hearing.
Sumptuously scored, expressive excess and over sentimentality on occasions
is the name of the game here but it can still provide enjoyment as
demonstrated in the three episodes: ‘Tanz des Kaffees’ (Coffee
), ‘Träumerei’ (Reverie) and the ‘Finale’ that Honeck and his
players perform with lavish abandon. Notable in ‘Träumerei’ is the playing
of Florian Zwiauer in the lovely solo violin part, rendered with polished
Honeck has also included Beethoven in the line-up an attractive and
buoyantly played third movement Allegro
titled ‘Merry gathering of
country folk’ from the composer’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’.
The only member of the Strauss family represented here is the young
brother Eduard Strauss with the encore piece. Eduard’s speciality was the
and here Honeck conducts with sheer exuberance a fine
example of the form the short ‘Wien über alles!’ (Vienna above all!).
The Wiener Symphoniker knows this music extremely well. Manfred Honeck
ensures that a conspicuous and unerringly elegant Viennese lilt is
successfully given to the waltzes, together with a glorious light and shade
in the tone colours. In addition the orchestra supplies a sparkling
exuberance to the marches, gallops and polkas.
The integral booklet in the CD case contains a helpful and interesting
essay by Josef Tichý translated from German into English. Magnificent sound
has been produced from the glorious acoustic of the Goldener Saal of the
Musikverein. Recorded live, I can hear virtually no extraneous noise and the
only applause left in is for the final work.
Full of delightful and vivacious Viennese dance themed music the Wiener
Symphoniker under Manfred Honeck is on intoxicating form. This album is a