David's Review Corner
, February 2008
The eleventh volume of the complete orchestral music of Johann Strauss, father of the Strauss dynasty, brings together nine of his most extensive waltzes composed over a two year period from 1837. By this time Strauss had reached the zenith of his career, his balls and gala evenings established on the Viennese social calendar. They were mostly ‘picture’ waltzes here opening with the noises of the newfangled steam trains in a bright and breezy Eisenbahn-Lust-Walzer (Railway Pleasure Waltzes). As would be expected Brussler Spitzen (Brussels Lace) is a delicate piece of decorative music, while Ball-Racketen (Ball Rockets) has the rockets whizzing into space at the end of five linked waltzes. Pilger am Rhein (Pilgrims on the Rhine), for a ball in Bonn, was a worthy rather than inspired score, though an elaborate series of Bankett-Tanze (Banquet Dances) for the August 1837 ball, has a real sense of an important happening. Later in that year Strauss made his long awaited Paris debut, the French capitol enjoying an extended visit that included eighteen masked balls. It was for one of those he composed the Paris Walzer where he captured the elegance on view. My favourite is the Huldigung der Konigin Victoria von Grosbritannien (Homage to Queen Victoria) where Strauss introduces the theme of Arne’s Rule Britannia and ending with the national anthem, a work composed for the ball at the newly renovated Buckingham Place following on Queen Victoria’s coronation the previous month. The disc does not claim any first recorded performances, though I guess some are in that category. At times I could have enjoyed a more sumptuous string sound from the Slovak Sinfonietta Zilina, but under Christian Pollack’s direction we can be assured of the most idiomatic performances. The sound is unfussy and well balanced.