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Penguin Guide, January 2009

STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 9 8.223569
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 10 8.223570
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 12 8.223572
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 17 8.223619
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 18 8.223620
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 20 8.223622
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 24 8.223626
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 25 8.223664
STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 26 8.223679

As with Marco’s Johann Strauss Edition, our coverage of the Josef Strauss Edition must be omitted for shortage of space. However, we must draw readers’ attention to Volumes 9 (8.223569), 10 (8.223572), 17 (8.223619), 18 (8.223620), 20 (8.223622)—a delightful collection, 22 (8.223624) (with four unknown waltzes), 24 (8.223626), 25 (8.223664) and 26 (8.223679)—all worthy of any collector’s attention. A full review will be found in earlier editions of our Guide.

John France
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"Josef Strauss has a massive catalogue, numbering over 280 works. He was born in August 1822 in Vienna. Josef was not originally intended to become a composer. In fact, he studied architecture and furthered this career. However, he conned music secretly and helped out his brother Johann II in conducting the band. He is best remembered for works such as Village Swallows from Austria (1864), The Mysterious Powers of Magnetism (1865) and the Music of the Spheres (1868). He co-wrote the famous Pizzicato Polka with Johann II. He died on 22nd July 1870 after sustaining a fall from the conductor's rostrum...

The orchestra under their conductor Christian Pollack take this music very seriously. There is no sense of parody here. But that is hardly surprising as Pollack is a musicologist as well as a conductor. He specialises in the field of Viennese Dance music and in particular the Strauss family. So what we are getting is the best possible performance of these long forgotten works.

How can I sum up this music? Some of it is very attractive; some of it seems to be very much written to a 'successful' formula. I must confess that it does not seem to have the immediate appeal of Johann II, but that is probably just the fact that I have been brought up knowing the 'famous' pieces. Something like the 'Legal Action' Waltz or the Velocipede Polka would be extremely popular if it was well known. There is a slightly melancholic feel to some of Josef's music. I feel about this as I do about some of Eric Coates' music.

I am never one to run down this kind of music. I always try to compare 'like with like,' not confusing genre. It is not fair to evaluate these dances with the music of say, a Ravel or a Monteverdi. The criterion is quite simply - is it a good example of its genre? Is it well written? Is it a good waltz, polka or quadrille? If the answer is 'yes' then it passes my test. It is unfair, yet a very common mistake to say that, for example, Josef Strauss is not as good as Berlioz. Both men were craftsmen in their own fields. Both had totally different agendas.

This is a lovely CD. Whether I would want to listen to the other nineteen is open to conjecture. Yet just as I long for a complete CD cycle of works by York Bowen or Lennox Berkeley, there must be many fans of Viennese music that are delighted with this massive recording project..."

Terry Barfoot
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"Marco Polo's mammoth project to record all the music of the Strauss family takes another step forward with this issue of Volume 20 of the works of Josef Strauss.

Josef initially trained to be an engineer, and spent some time working with spinning machines, water mains and buildings construction. He even invented a cleaning machine for the streets of Vienna. It took some years for the family to persuade him to take over the direction of their orchestra, after his elder brother, Johann, had collapsed from exhaustion.

Josef's reluctance to commit himself to music stemmed from his lack of expertise on the violin. When he was finally cajoled into taking the platform he conducted with a baton instead of in the traditional Viennese fashion, as perpetuated by Willi Boskovsky, Lorin Maazel and others, of directing with the bow of the violin and joining in the playing whenever appropriate. Josef's latent inability was hidden from all by an iron self-discipline, and his music shows no sign of his deep depressions. His waltzes are full of romantic tenderness and his polkas have a brilliant rhythmic flair.

These strengths are certainly in evidence in this attractive programme which features some well known items alongside many others which are less famous. But all, particularly the lively polkas, are well worth hearing. The selection opens attractively with the direct appeal of the Liechtenstein March, whose rhythmic contour is pointed by the percussion, and Christian Pollack's choice of tempo is just right for emphasising this. Perhaps the best known of these pieces is the Delirien Waltz, whose main theme is one of the best tunes conceived by any member of the Strauss family. Pollack shapes it tastefully...and the Marco Polo recording is atmospheric...

On the whole it is the fast polkas which fare best, and some of them are terrific, revealing the composer's lively wit: the delightfully named Velocipede and the exciting Pele-mele are particularly good examples of Josef's art. Inevitably any composer who writes literally hundreds of pieces within a relatively restricted idiom will achieve highs and lows of invention, but Josef Strauss's technique is top-drawer, while his invention offers many delights. As an example of what can be found by exploring this repertoire, try the little-known Flattergeister Waltz, which contains a couple of really wonderful tunes."

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