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One man's food is another man's poison. So goes the saying, and this cannot be more true than in the case of the Strauss dynasty. For almost a century the music of Strauss father and son dominated the dance-halls and concert stages with such a hypnotic allure that a myriad of other contemporary composers, masters of the genre as much if not better than their eminent colleagues, were left languishing by the wayside, and with the exception of a handful, many today are totally forgotten. Now, thanks to this enterprising series from Marco Polo, many lost gems are being unearthed.
An interesting feature about this genre of music is that it belongs to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and not to a particular nation. The empire included many diverse countries, all with their own culture whose common link was Vienna. Most of these composers travelled around the empire, especially those who had a military career, blending idioms from such diverse sound worlds as Czechia, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Romania, Germany and the Balkans. Indeed, these composers did enjoy a measure of popularity, and their works would be included in many popular concerts and balls of the day held over Europe and even in America, but competition with the Strauss's was a non-starter.
And what about Vienna's New Year Concert? I doubt very much whether they ever had a look-in. Did you ever hear music by Oscar Fetras, Siegfried Translateur, Franz von Blon, Béla Kéler or Max Heinecke? I haven't; but listening to this marvellous fourth volume in the series, I was completely swept off my feet.
Listen — Franz von Blon: Mein Ideal, Waltz
(track 4, 0:00-0:55) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :
These are indeed pieces written in the great dance tradition of Old Vienna; rousing galops, jumpy polkas and stirring marches mix with gentler salon pieces and waltzes, and the end result is an eighty-minute feast of delicious musical delights that intoxicate the ears as much as reminding the listener that the world is not all doom and gloom.
Listen — Béla Kéler: Sempre Crescendo Galop
(track 9, 0:00-0:58) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :
John Georgiadis deserves immense credit not only for his painstaking research and wonderful arrangements, but also for his vibrant and energetic conducting that breathes new life into an era that once celebrated life with an unparalleled exuberance.
Listen — Josef Gung'l: Pandekten-Waltzer
(track 12, 8:19-9:11) © 2019 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :
Unreservedly recommended on condition that you get Volumes 1-3. Enthusiastically awaiting the next instalment.
Copyright © 4 July 2019