Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics
, June 2011
By way of introduction, I could do no better than to quote from the booklet: The complete orchestral edition represents a milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first time ever, the enitire orchestral output of the “Waltz King”. Despite their supremely high standard of musical invention, the majority of the compositions have never before been commercially recorded, and have been painstakingly assembled from archives around the world. All performances featured in this series are complete and, wherever possible, the works are played in their original instrumentation as conceived by the ‘master orchestrator’ himself, Johann Strauss II.
There are 479 Opus numbers in the collection, plus some fifty other pieces. This monumental project—brainchild of Naxos CEO Klaus Heymann—began years ago and has now finally come to fruition. It represents close collaboration with well over a dozen major music archives all over the world, and is certainly a recording industry first. A detailed history of the process is to be found in the catalogue—the equivalent of a Master Thesis—including, along with pertinent information, quotes, occasions and dates of composition for each piece.
The ‘Waltz King’s’ thrice-familiar chestnuts are deeply ingrained in the music consciousness of even the most casually aware person. Yet I only heard a familiar tune until well into the ninth CD. (As I continued to explore, I was reminded of a statement made by my close friend Felix Burian—born and raised in Vienna—who said he believed that this composer was the greatest ever, greater than the “Three B’s” and even Mozart! Granted, he was not exactly immersed in that kind of music.).
Numerous orchestras and conductors were employed in recording the project. In most instances they are very successful, yet a few ensembles barely rise to the Sunday-in-the-Park level—which is a pity. But that is a minor cavil, which disappears in this veritable ocean of Straussiana.