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See latest reviews of other albums..., May 2010

For sheer joy in dance motion, it is a small step from the ¾ beat of the minuet to the ¾ beat of the waltz, and there have been few composers who could churn out danceable waltzes with such consistency as Johann Strauss Sr Unlike the more-famous, more-symphonic waltzes of his sons, Johann Jr and Josef, those of Johann Sr rarely pretended to be more than occasional pieces—trifles perhaps, but delicious ones, with clear rhythms created for the express purpose of making it impossible to stand still while Strauss Sr led his orchestra. The 16th volume in the continuing Marco Polo series of Strauss Sr’s music shows yet again that there is no finer exponent of these works than Christian Pollack, and no orchestra that plays them with more verve than the Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina. There are six waltzes—actually waltz sets, each of them containing as many as five mini-waltzes—on the new CD, plus two Quadrilles, one each for the name days of Emperor Ferdinand I and Empress Maria Anna. All eight works here date from the period of November 1842–August 1843, and it is wonderful to hear the unending flow of melodies produced by Strauss Sr with such apparent ease…one of the pieces here is among the composer’s greatest: Loreley-Rhein-Klänge, a lengthy and thoroughly winning piece that unfolds with a combination of naturalness and beauty. Die Dämonen (“The Demons”) is nearly at the same level, featuring some especially neat twists in its tunes. The other waltzes on this CD—Künstler-Ball-Tänze, Tanz-Capricen, Brüder Lustig and Astraea-Tänze—are less distinguished, although the last of these is pleasantly animated and quite upbeat. If chamber music is a dance of sorts, then the dances of Johann Strauss Sr—which were often played by small ensembles, not full-size orchestras—qualify as dances writ large, and ones that still retain their bounce and beauty.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

We have now reached the years 1842 to 1844 when Johann Strauss was at the pinnacle of his success, though sadly he was only five years away from his untimely death. It was in the days when he had created a fine orchestra, and from his base at Vienna’s popular Sperl ballroom he dominated the annual series of prestige balls, and particularly the Carnival ball season. It was reported that there was a long traffic jam as carriages were caught up in the queue caused by those attending the Artists ball for which Strauss had composed the Kunstler Ball  in January 1843. Indeed we have now moved into the era where most of his works were composed for a specific occasion or person, Ferdinand and Anna the ruling Emperor and Empress bringing about two of his finest Quadrilles from that period. The most extensive, and perfect example of a waltz sequence, was that written for a charity ball for Vienna’s children’s hospitals, Loreley-Rhein-Klange (Lorelei-Rhine-Sounds). It was for many years to be his most popular piece even rivalling his Radetzky March. As I have said so many times in the past, Christian Pollack has the music in his lifeblood, and in the modest size of the Zilina orchestra he can replicate the ‘Strauss’s band’. Sound quality is very good.

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