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Joy to the World & Strauss Waltzes from Vienna
Andre Kostelanetz and his Orchestra
rec. 1959/60, New York

This arrived on my reviewing desk as spring promised its verdant unfolding, as daffodils bunched and opened, as bluebells were burnished in weak sunlight. And then it all went haywire and it snowed and froze, and the daffodils keeled over and the bluebells really got the blues. And so, from musical incongruity I embraced seasonal spirits and put on Andre Kostelanetz and his Orchestra recording Christmas medleys in the same months (February and March of 1960) that I listened to his long-ago stereo LP.

It was called Joy to the World and at its heart was a 13-minute medley that ransacked the most obvious of tunes, coated in the orchestra’s characteristically lush and often luxurious sound world. The chorus added its own particular sonic qualities as did the one vocal soloist, the baritone Earl Wrightson. He sings on Silent Night and O, Come, All Ye Faithful, and though he’s rather backwardly balanced he retains considerable dignity amidst the festive tumult. Added piquancy comes from much-admired pianist Leonid Hambro who twinkles away on the Tchaikovsky pieces that end the medley.

The other single tracks are equally attractive in a broad-boned sort of way with Wrightson reappearing on Joy to the World and O, Holy Night. There’s a relaxed White Christmas, Leroy Anderson’s evergreen Sleigh Ride opens out into big-bandery, with ebullient percussion – though still not quite Stan Kenton or Buddy Rich – and the chorus sings sensitively in Away in a Manger. There’s a fair degree of confident panache in this version of March of the Toys from Victor Herbert and Toscanini’s transcription of Waldteufel’s The Skater’s Waltz ends the programme with charming chivalry.

One moves from Christmas to New Year in Vienna in the Strauss Waltzes album, made the previous year in New York’s 30th Street Studios. The selections are well-known and there are some truncations, but the performances are ultra-succulent and athletic. The Emperor Waltz gets an exceptionally giddy and romantic reading, in particular, but Kostelanetz is a genial guide throughout.

With a good transfer and brief notes, that’s Christmas and New Year pretty much sewn up in the nostalgic hands of Kostelanetz and his lavishly appointed orchestra.

Jonathan Woolf

Medley: The First Noel: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear: Silent Night, Holy Night: Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis): Sugar Plum Fairy Interlude (Tchaikovsky): Waltz Of The Flowers (Tchaikovsky) [13:12]
What Child Is This: Joy To The World [3:24]
White Christmas (Berlin) [3:17]
Sleigh Ride (Anderson) [2:28]
Away In A Manger: We Three Kings Of Orient Are [3:31]
March Of The Toys: Toyland (Herbert) [2:49]
Oh Holy Night [2:45]
Skaters' Waltz (Waldteufel, transc. Toscanini) [6:17]
Earl Wrightson (baritone): Leonid Hambro (piano: Tchaikovsky): Chorus/Andre Kostelanetz and his Orchestra
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
The Blue Danube (1867) [4:20]
Tales from the Vienna Woods (1868) [4:09]
Artist’s Life (1867) [4:20]
Voices of Spring (1882) [4:07]
Vienna Life [3:56]
Emperor Waltz (1889) [4:21]
A Thousand and One Nights (1871) [3:22]
The Gypsy Baron Waltz (1885) [3:22]
Roses from the South (1883) [3:51]
Die Fledermaus: Waltz (1874) [3:29]



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