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See latest reviews of other albums..., August 2011

These are works written by Strauss Sr. at the height of his creative powers, beautifully played by an orchestra that handles this music with expressiveness and constant attention to detail, and led by a conductor whose enthusiastic handling of these ebullient works belies his age and the imminent end of his life.

David Hurwitz, March 2011

Time flies! Marco Polo is already on Volume 18 of this series, and the problem with publishing complete collections of this music (as with Johann Strauss II), is that there’s just so much of it—and of course it all sounds, if not the same, then at least “of a piece”. Still, it’s important to take note of new releases such as this if only to remind everyone that the project is ongoing, and—more to the point—well worth collecting. Even if you don’t want everything, you should dip in and try a volume or two.

This one contains six delicious waltzes, a couple of quadrilles (that on tunes from Balfe’s The Four Aymon Sons is particularly fun), and one polka. They were composed in the mid-1840s, and the music is unaffectedly fresh and spirited. As the title “Viennese Fruits” suggests, the music is so much of its time and place, and it’s impossible not to enjoy Strauss’ limitless fund of tune.

Ernest Märzendorfer is a pro in this music, and the orchestra plays with a pleasantly Slavic edge to its timbre that somehow seems extra authentic. Marco Polo’s sonics are extremely clean and vivid. If you’re looking for some agreeable music for casual listening, or even to accompany a quiet day at home, give this (or any of the other volumes in this series) a shot. Recommended.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, March 2011

Surely the 18th volume of the complete works of Johann Strauss Senior must be scraping the bottom of the barrel? Actually, no—I’m beginning to wonder if the father of the dynasty hasn’t been as unjustly neglected in favour of Johann II, as his son Josef has been. There’s plenty to enjoy here, mostly waltzes but with a sprinkling of polkas and quadrilles, in idiomatic performances, well recorded, and with an elegant cover design to round it off. The booklet of notes comes as part of the deal. Don’t forget to investigate the music of Josef, the most talented member of the family, too, on Marco Polo—start with the Naxos highlights disc from the series The Best of Josef Strauss (8.556846).

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

Ernst Marzendorfer had reached the venerable age of eighty-eight when he made the eighteenth volume in Marco Polo’s complete recording of music by the father of the Strauss dynasty. Sadly he was to die just five months later in September 2009. In his younger years he was regarded as one of the leading conductors of Richard Strauss’s operas and was also to be the first conductor to place all of Haydn’s symphonies on disc. A pupil of the legendary conductor, Clemens Krauss, he was one of the most knowledgeable conductors of the Viennese repertoire and on this disc he has recorded the waltzes, quadrilles and polkas composed by Johann Strauss from July 1844 to January 1845, his golden period when there was an insatiable demand for his music to meet the major balls in Vienna. By now he was so sure of his public that he was promoting his own events, Wiener-Fruchtein (Vienna Fruits) composed for his favourite venue, the Sperl Ballroom, as the highlight of his ‘Mysteries of A Thousand and One Nights’. The work, it was reported, had to be repeated six times. Though Strauss was at the peak, he seemed that we was finding increasing difficulty in fashioning memorable melodies, the delightful ‘spinning’ tune of Willkommen-Rufe (Shouts of Welcome) being a notable exception. By contrast the Katherine Day carnival in 1844 was such a glittering occasion, and liberally laced with royal personages, that his specially composed Maskenlieder (Song of the Maskers) passed without so much as a comment. But it was to be the Odeon-Tanze waltz for the opening night of the enormous Odeon ballroom that was his major achievement of that period. Marzendorfer uses a gentle pulse for the waltzes to offset the vivacious quadrilles, the playing of the Zilina Orchestra both smooth and manicured in the best Viennese style.

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