David's Review Corner
, July 2009
In this chronological progression through the music of the father of the Strauss dynasty, we have reached the year 1842, the composer at the height of his powers at the age of thirty-eight. He reigned supreme at the Vienna nightspot, the Sperl, with his music usually composed to reflect events staged there. The opening track, Minnesanger Walzer, marked the traditional flower festival that had been twice delayed because of bad weather. Every opportunity to gain favour with royalty was exploited, the elegant, Haute Volee Quadrille (High Society Quadrille), being intended to please Empress Maria Anna, though it delighted those present even more, the dance having to be repeated five times at its first showing. Strauss’s problem came with the need to make each visual extravaganza better than the one before, though by all accounts the event on the 18th of July was the most breathtaking, Strauss offering the new Latonen-Walzer (Leto Waltzes). The title comes from the Roman goddess of night, though to my ears the work turned out to be rather ordinary. More to my taste was the brief Parade-Marsch for the ball of the Viennese Civilian Guard, though the event went by apparently unnoticed. Minos-Klange (Strains of Minos) and Die Lustwandler (The Strollers) were waltzes requested to mark events, while Walhalla-Toaste (Valhalla-Toasts) was intended for an major evening that fell short of its promise. We have to wait for the discs’s last track for its greatest pleasure—Saison-Quadrille nach Motiven der beruhmten Virtuosen Vieuxtemps, Evers und Kullak. It opened the 1843 season, and Strauss was never more persuasive then when he was ‘borrowing’ thematic material from others. It is a real gem. The Slovak Sinfonietta retains a remarkably high quality, with conductor, Christian Pollack, as idiomatic as ever.