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Johann Strauss II (1825-1899), the most famous composer of dance music, was also a substantial contributor to the operetta genre. Indeed, apart from his huge orchestral output, we find fifteen such works for the stage. Thanks to Naxos, we have now reached the fourteenth milestone of a project that started years ago with the aim of recording all of Strauss's operettas.
Waldmeister (Woodruff) was premiered on 4 December 1895 at the Theater an der Wien. Although not as popular as some of Strauss's other operettas, such as Der Zigeunerbaron and Die Fledermaus, it was given eighty-eight performances and was much admired by Brahms. The chink in the armour was the libretto by Gustav Davis, which was weak dramatically, and this took some of the gloss off the music. Notwithstanding, the score was highly praised and some critics even went as far as to say that there was Mozart's spirit in the piece.
The story unfolds in a small forest town in central Germany towards the end of the nineteenth century. A merry motley hunting party, consisting of journeyman foresters, the beautiful Pauline, an opera singer, and her friend Botho von Wendt, is caught in a storm and finds shelter in the forest mill. There they change their soaked dresses for dry miller's clothing, which provide camouflage when chief forest superintendent Tymoleon von Gerius bursts in. He is ordered by Hetele, head of the council, to teach the young people manners. Botho learns that Tymoleon is in love with Freda, the delectable forest fairy and Hetele's charming daughter, who he just met in the forest and who he instantly fell in love with. They all know that Tymoleon, a notorious womanizer, is not the right choice for Freda and that he needs to be taught a lesson. Pauline orchestrates the trap. After a turbulent engagement ceremony, at which a self-made lime-blossom tea has a surprising effect, nothing remains as it used to be. Botho gets Freda, Tymoleon receives gratuitous compensation, and the mystery of the black woodruff is unexpectedly disclosed.
Not such an inspiring story, but as is the wont with great composers, they always succeed in writing music that transcends the plot. And in Waldmeister, Strauss was able to produce some truly sparkling music full of intense energy and exuberant melodic invention.
Listen — J Strauss II: Overture (Waldmeister)
(CD1 track 1, 0:00-1:00) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :
Dario Salvi's attention to detail and animated conducting serves the composer's intentions to the hilt and does justice to his luscious music. As for the singers, they are a perfectly synchronized team that perform with a true depth of feeling. Chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly with some impressive singing and playing.
Listen — J Strauss II: Finale (Waldmeister Act II)
(CD2 track 22, 16:32-17:29) ℗ 2021 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :
This issue is a tribute to the courage and determination of Naxos to complete this unique cycle. Indeed, the recording was made between 13 and 19 January 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bulgaria Hall, Sofia. While we are grateful for this heroic effort, we await with eagerness the last piece that completes the jigsaw: Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves).
Copyright © 23 September 2021
CD INFORMATION - J STRAUSS II: WALDMEISTER