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Frühling in Wien (Springtime in Vienna)
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843-1922)
Hereinspaziert (Come right in!), waltz, op. 518 (c. 1904) [07.52]
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Ouvertüre zur Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant) (1846) [10.04]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 ‘Pastoral’ (1783) - III. Allegro: Merry gathering of country folk [05.19]
Max SCHÖNHERR (1903-1984)
Tänze aus Österreich (Dances from Austria), op. 25 (1935): [6:44]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
From the ballet Schlagobers (Whipped Cream), Op. 70 (1921/22) [14:18]
Carl Michael ZIEHRER  
Weaner Mad’ln, waltz, op. 388 (arr. Max Schönherr) [09.51]
Praterfahrt anno 1880 (A Drive through the Prater in the Year 1880), gallop op. 92a [03.07]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916)
Wien über alles! (Vienna above all!), polka-schnell, op. 172 [02.04]
Wiener Symphoniker/Manfred Honeck
Christoph Stradner (cello :Suppé); Florian Zwiauer (violin (R Strauss)
rec. 26/27 March 2016 Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Wien

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 the album.

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 Cavalry) 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 Schlagobers, 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 première Schlagobers 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 Dance), ‘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 expression.

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 polka-schnell 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 sheer delight.

Michael Cookson


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