J. STRAUSS, JR.: Waltzes = Kaiserwalzer, Op. 437; Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald; Kuenstlerleben; Nordseebilder; An der schoenen blauen Donau; Rosen aus dem Sueden – Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Yakov Kreizberg – PentaTone

by | Mar 27, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

J. STRAUSS, JR.: Waltzes = Kaiserwalzer, Op. 437; Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald, Op. 325; Kuenstlerleben, Op. 316; Nordseebilder, Op. 390; An der schoenen blauen Donau, Op. 314; Rosen aus dem Sueden, Op. 388 – Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Wilfried Scharf, zither/ Yakov Kreizberg – PentaTone Multichannel SCD 5186 052,  63:23 ****:

Anyone with a penchant for the Waltz King, that “devil in three-quarter time,” as his contemporary critics characterized him, will find plenty of hearty sounds inscribed in this vivid multichannel CD devoted to Johann Strauss, Jr.(1825-1899).  PentaTone’s recording producer Job Maarse apparently worked in close association with conductor Kreizberg to capture the infinite colors and dreamy, instrumental flavorings which grace the individual waltzes in this collection. So the snare drum, the bass drum, the zither (in the Vienna Woods), the oboes, the brass, the harp, the flute, the triangle, and the cymbal each receive their allotted 15 minutes of musical fame and definition.

Having cut my own Strauss teeth on inscriptions by Krauss, Walter, Szell, Kleiber, and Knappertsbusch, I was perfectly prepared to find Kreizberg’s a poor imitation of the authentic Strauss style.  Not so.  Everything from the lilting second beat to the lush sonorities and melting strings is in apple pie order.  Wilfried Scharf’s zither is a match for that of Anton Karas, the latter of whom played for Carol Reed’s film The Third Man.  The warmth of the oboe and the surrounding strings for the opening of Artists’ Life proves potently effective, as are the ensuing, tripping figures in strings and winds. Wonderful sonic separation of the antiphons in the development section of this marvelous waltz. I have the distinct feeling the Vienna Symphony taught Kreizberg as much about this musical style as all of his conservatory studies put together.

The new addition to the collector’s repertory is the 1878 North Sea Pictures, Op. 390, composed on honeymoon in Wyk, after Strauss had married his second wife, Angelika Dittrich.  Perhaps a hint of Mendelssohn haunts the opening horn and tympani parts in what purports to be a tonepoem; then the waltz pulsations based on the roll of the ocean waves kick in, and the world of Franz Lehar engulfs us, though not so melodiously as in the more noted waltzes. The shimmering, gorgeous opening of The Blue Danube, with its almost-Tristan harmonic modulations and harp figurations, more than evokes visions of both Vienna and Kubrick’s space station.  The slow evolution of the melos delights both the ear and the sound-system. The fluttering flute solo at the finale comes from outer space. Roses from the South is all Viennese cream: triangle, pizzicato strings, brass, harps, and cymbals aglow. A diminuendo here, a ritard there, and the recollection of a vanished earthly grace is complete. Viele gruesse!

–Gary Lemco

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