WALDTEUFEL: The Skaters Waltz; J. STRAUSS: Tristsh-Tratsch Polka; J. STRAUSS. SR: Radetzky March; Thunder and Lightning Polka; CHABRIER: Espana; Marche joyeuse; SUPPE: Light Cavalry Overture etc. – Philharmonia Orch./Herbert von Karajan – EMI

by | Sep 14, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Philharmonia Promenade Concert = WALDTEUFEL: The Skaters Waltz;
J. STRAUSS: Tristsh-Tratsch Polka; J. STRAUSS. SR: Radetzky March;
Thunder and Lightning Polka; CHABRIER: Espana; Marche joyeuse; SUPPE:
Light Cavalry Overture; WEINBERGER: Schwanda the Bagpiper–Polka;
OFFENBACH: Orpheus in the Underworld Overture; BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival
Overture; LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci–Intermezzo; BORODIN: Polovtsian
Dances from Prince Igor — Philharmonia Orchestra/ Herbert von Karajan

EMI Classics 7243 4 76900 2,  73:33 ****:

Several cuts from this CD issue were among the last Herbert von Karajan
(1908-1989) inscribed with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the
relationship having lasted for twelve years, 1948-1960. The sheer level
of execution by the orchestra is superb; and while we can lament the
passing of the brilliant Dennis Brain from the ranks of brass players,
his successor Alan Civil provides a French horn part serenely lush in
Waldteufel’s The Skaters. The entire brass and battery section rise up
for the Strauss Thunder and Lightning Polka and Suppe’s Light Cavalry
in a manner that must have elicited even from the eye of the grim-faced
Karajan more than twinkle of delight.

Much of the program is standard New Year’s concert fare: even the
nationalistic spices like Espana and Offenbach’s Orpheus in the
Underworld have been assimilated into the Viennese canon. Bassoon
principal Cecil James shines in the Chabrier selections, while the
Philharmonia strings wend their silken sheen that still permits that
hint of irony and acerbic wit which Karajan’s later recordings with the
Berlin Philharmonic seem unwilling to tolerate. Hugh Bean’s violin
tone, which first appealed to my ear in famed LP reading of The Lark
Ascending with Sir Adrian Boult, is here equally pointed, but so is the
opening cello solo from that section’s leader. The Berlioz, the
Leoncavallo, the Borodin — each is liquid, shimmering, or finely
wrought glass, the soul of serene professionalism. Walter Legge, who
had organized the Philharmonia in1945 specifically as a recording
ensemble, finds here the fulfillment of that initial purpose, with
perhaps the gift of immortality tossed in as a bonus.

–Gary Lemco

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