David's Review Corner
, August 2007
We have to be grateful to Marco Polo for the crumbs they keep offering from the massive output of Carl Michael Ziehrer, particularly when we have a disc containing four world premiere recordings. Ziehrer's life is one of mixed fortunes, and with his threat to the Strauss dynasty vigorously opposed, he was forced to take a job as an army bandmaster on three separate occasions, though he was to raise the quality of Austrian bands to new levels of excellence. He was forty-two before Vienna finally accepted him as major composer of dance music, soon followed by operettas that had some notable successes, Der Landstreicher running for more than 1500 performances. Today you will still find them included in the repertoire of Austrian and German opera houses, though they rarely travel. It is thought that he wrote fifteen, but some were destroyed in a theatre fire and later in the First World War. It was that latter event that broke him physically and financially, his last years spent in poverty, dying in 1922 at the age of 79, nothing having been composed for many years before his demise. More robust in his orchestration than the Strauss family, a trait coming from his work as a bandmaster, and he could produce endless catchy tunes. Just turn to track 3, Die bleiche Zauberer (The White Magician), of which only the overture still survives, to hear the type of instantly memorable melody that fills the disc. I am not going to enumerate all of the tracks, the highly informative booklet giving you all the detail you need to know, each one being essentially in dance form and highlights melodies to be heard in the operetta. Regular readers will know I am addicted to Christian Pollack's Viennese discs, and this is one of his best, the Slovak orchestra in top form, and they enjoy the best sound quality that I have heard from Kosice. Pure unadulterated delight.