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VIENNA PREMIERE VOL 3 (first ever recordings of works by the Strauss Family and their Viennese contemporaries). The Viennese Orchestra of London/Jack Rothstein CHANDOS CHAN 9127 (61' 10'')




This extremely attractive compilation provides a welcome antidote to the countless versions of over-familiar Strauss bonbons which fill the shelves of most record shops. Such war-horses are mainly written by Johann Strauss the Second, who is to my ears not quite the equal in terms of melodic invention or skill in orchestration of his father or Josef Strauss, to say nothing of Lanner or Zeihrer. How exciting, then, to come across a compilation of world premiere recordings featuring a strong representation by Josef, Eduard and Johann Strauss I as well as rarely-heard works by Millocker and Fahrbach Jr.

The CD begins with Eduard Strauss's "Loyalty of the Austria's People" March, swaggering with appropriately patriotic pride. Charming rather than bombastic, this makes an impressive start to the programme. The following "Casimir Waltz" by C. M. Ziehrer is typical of its composer, wittily scored (with a quote from "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in its opening section) and full of memorable touches. The Millocker polka "Knock on the Door" is pleasant but unexceptional whilst another Zeihrer delight, the "Dancing Temptress" quick polka proves this underrated composer could write polkas to match the quality of his more famous waltzes and marches (the "Schonfeld-Marsch" is a particular favourite of mine).

A rare opportunity to hear a waltz by Johann Strauss III is afforded by the inclusion of "Under the Linden Trees", a waltz written for Berlin in 1900 and full of turn-of-the-century optimism which now seems tinged with pathos in view of forthcoming events. Johann Strauss II is represented by just one late work - the "Just don't moan!" French polka taken from his last operetta in 1897. Like the opening work on the CD, this piece is arranged (most persuasively) by Edward Peak.

Josef Strauss is featured by his "Walloons March" - a truly original piece with fascinating twists to its melody and orchestration (no wonder it had to be repeated on its first performance). To confirm one's impression that Josef was the most talented of the Strauss brothers, the exquisite "Pauline" Polka-mazurka and the dark but beautiful waltz "Time Pictures" bring undiluted pleasure. His waltzes can be strangely profound, not least in their dark introductions, becoming in many cases mini-tone poems. "Time Pictures" is no exception.

Philipp Fahrbach Junior's "Stork's bills Galop" is jolly but lacking the finesse of say Josef Strauss's "Feurfest" polka to lift its gimmickry out of the realms of curiosity value only. Johann Strauss Senior's "Freedom March" is not quite the equal of its near contemporary - the "Radetzky March" - but it is enjoyable in its own right and reminds us how charming the Viennese march can be in the hands of a master like Johann Strauss I or Ziehrer.

The music of Eduard Strauss deserves more exposure and his "Little Blue Eyes" French polka and, especially, the magisterial "Veil and Crown" Waltz prove that he was more than capable of producing fine melodies to match his brothers. The disc concludes with the sparkling and dazzlingly scored "Carnival in Paris" Galop by Johann Strauss I.

Recorded in vintage 1992 Chandos sound and featuring persuasive and idiomatic performances from the Viennese Orchestra of London under Jack Rothstein, this CD is guaranteed to bring much pleasure. Rothstein coaxes warm and sunny readings from his orchestra. You are not far into the CD before you forget you are listening to rarely heard world premiere recordings and just concentrate on enjoying the tremendous melodic invention on display. Craftsmanship comes in all sizes, as these little jewels demonstrate. Highly recommended.


Paul Conway


Paul Conway

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