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8.554756 - Salon Orchestra Favourites, Vol. 1
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Salon Orchestra Favourites - Pearls of European salon music

At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century salon music was a phenomenon that could be found all over Europe. Following the trail blazed by the triumphal processions of legendary virtuosos such as the Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), the Polish pianist Frédéric Chopin (1810-­1849) and the Austro-Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) or the French cellist Adrien-François Servais (1807-1866), a musical culture developed which transcended all national boundaries. But only selected examples were passed on to the concert-halls of posterity; most of this music, if it survived at all, was doomed to an underground existence, for the preservers of pure music took exception to the increasing emphasis laid on commercial aspects. Nevertheless, it would hardly be exaggerating to say that salon music was simply the reaction to new socio-economic circumstances. A growing market, in which direct means of musical reproduction were still unknown, had to be supplied with compositions which were so easy on the ear that the mass sale of printed music could be guaranteed by virtue of this alone. In these circumstances widespread popularity could only be to advantage, national colouring providing at best an additional breath of exoticism. Later eras have adopted the prejudicial view that this process inevitably produced works of inferior quality, a prejudice which can be refuted by this collection of some of these pearls.

The Italian-born composer Luigi Arditi (1822-1903) was an international European par excellence, whose career as violinist and conductor led him all over the continent (and even to America). To name just the most important stages: in 1857 he conducted in Constantinople (today Istanbul) and in 1858 in London. From 1871 to 1873 he directed the Italian opera in St Petersburg. After a short stay in Madrid in 1878 he lived in London again for several years, then moved to Dublin, where he died.

Arditi's œuvre is in two ways characteristic of the conditions governing composers' careers from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards. On the one hand he made free use of idioms other than his own - in the example on this recording the Italian composed a brilliant Viennese waltz. And on the other hand he is an example of the fickleness of fame: whereas Arditi was one of the most popular and well-known composers of his time, today he is known only to the connoisseurs among devotees of salon music.

This fate is shared by several of his colleagues: for example the Czech composer František Alois (Franz) Drdla (1869-1944), like Arditi a violin virtuoso and composer, whose fame was ensured above all through his Serenade No. 1 ("Kubelík-Serenade") composed in 1901; his countryman Zdenĕk Fibich (1850-1900), whose Poème, Op. 4 No. 6, was originally composed for piano, but has appeared in innumerable other arrangements all over the world; or even the Russian pianist and composer of Polish origin Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894), who founded the St Petersburg Conservatoire in 1862, composed operas and symphonies which were received by his contemporaries with enthusiasm but today is only remembered as the composer of the Mélodie in F major, Op. 3 No. 1. Ruggero Leoncavallo (1858-1926), the composer of the opera Pagliacci which is still popular today, does not fare much better either. His countryman Enrico Toselli (1883-1926), in contrast, became world-famous on two counts. However, while the pianist's marriage to Princess Louise, at the time crown princess of Saxony, has long since ceased to attract attention, his Serenata still belongs to the evergreens of the salon music repertoire.

Salon music was chiefly music for the grand piano in the salon (or more frequently: the upright piano in the drawing-room) - whether it was arrangements of orchestral works, operas or operatic excerpts, or (as was quite frequently the case) original compositions. Like Rubinstein's Mélodie or Toselli's Serenata, the Tango by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was also composed for piano, as was the Paso doble El relicario by his countryman José Padilla (1889-1960). In all these cases arrangements for other instruments or groups of instruments - arrangements made by the composer himself or by various different arrangers in the course of the decades - were the rule rather than the exception. The consequence of this variety is an astonishing colourfulness of instrumentation. In Leoncavallo's Brise de mer it is the cello that takes the leading role; in contrast, Robert Stolz lets the violin dominate in accordance with the title, whereas Heinrich Strecker's foxtrot Drunt' in der Labau from the operetta Der ewige Walzer (‘The Eternal Waltz’, first performed in 1928) presents itself in truly symphonic richness of sound, to name just a few examples.

For the salon orchestra Schwanen, whose melodic line is characterized by violins and woodwind, special arrangements were made of Arditi's "Kiss Waltz" Il bacio, Riccardo Drrigo's Serenade Harlequin’s Millions and Rudolf Sieczynski's declaration of love to his home city of Vienna.

Konrad Dussel

Translation: Diana Laos

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