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John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, November 2010

As enthusiasts will know already, for some years Naxos have been issuing on their Marco Polo label a series of discs of the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra playing the music of Lumbye. Eleven have been issued in all. I am unclear whether more are expected. Now Naxos have issued this disc drawn from the series under the title “The Best of Hans Christian Lumbye”.

Whether or not they are the best items I do not know, but certainly every one is a little masterpiece of its genre, with a surprising variety of character, tempo and orchestration. This is a disc that can be listened to right through with no hint of repetition or dullness. It opens with the Champagne Galop. This sets the pattern for a series of works in many of which an extra-musical idea yields wonderful musical results. In this case it is the popping of corks, in the case of the Steam Railway Galop it is the imitation of early railway engines and in the Drømmebilleder—my personal favourite—it is a poem describing the dreams of a young girl. Lumbye’s mastery of orchestration is demonstrated throughout the programme, including the ingenious Concert-Polka for two violins, the Britta Polka with its trumpet tune indebted to Bach, and the Telegraph Galop for two orchestras “telegraphing” material to each other. Lumbye is sometimes called the “Strauss of the North” but this is misleading in suggesting some sort of imitation of Viennese dance music. Essentially Lumbye is his own man, his music different in character and sound from that of any of the Strauss family. Indeed after listening to this disc I am certain that Lumbye is at least as good a composer as any of them, and wish that the many Johann Strauss gala concerts might be varied with an occasional Lumbye Gala.

It is appropriate that everything is played by the orchestra of the Copenhagen amusement park which opened in 1843 with Lumbye as its conductor of and composer. It hardly needs saying that they know and understand the idiom of this music and play it with both gusto and finesse. Three conductors are used but I could hear no difference in their approach to the music which they all treat with the care it so richly deserves. The recordings are all clear and full. In addition in some ways the disc would be worth having just for the booklet notes by Knud Arne Jørgensen which describe the background to each work in fascinating detail.

All in all this disc is an absolute winner for anyone who enjoys the genre. Its only fault is that you may well decide, after hearing it, that you must have all eleven of the discs from which it is drawn. When the music is as good as this the disc must surely be an effective sprat to catch a mackerel for the Marco Polo series.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, October 2010

This is a single-CD distillation of the Marco Polo 11-CD complete recording of the music of Hans Christian Lumbye, the so-called ‘Strauss of the North’. Not surprisingly, the Naxos selection concentrates on Lumbye’s better-known works, mostly taken from Volume 1 of the Marco Polo series (8.223743, seven tracks), and Volume 3 (8.225122, three tracks) on which Giordano Bellincampi conducts. The other tracks come from 8.225264 (David Riddell) and 8.225171 (Tamas Vetö). It’s especially apt that the selection should be released now, since Lumbye was born in 1810, a bi-centenary which might otherwise have been lost among this year’s other musical celebrations.

The analogy with the Strauss family, especially Johann II is apt...With the exception of the Drømmebilleder (Dream Pictures) Fantasia (track 4), most of the dances are in the waltz or galop format and some of the titles are even reminiscent of the music of the Viennese family.

The title of the opening piece, the well-known Champagne Galop No.1 recalls Johann Strauss’s Champagne Polka (on The Very Best of Strauss, Naxos 8.552115/6). There’s more popping of Champagne corks on track 9. Lumbye’s Erdringer fra St Petersburg (Recollections of St Petersburg) match the Erinnerung an Covent Garden (Recollection of Covent Garden, based on the tune Champagne Charley, on Johann Strauss Junior: Most Famous Works, Volume 6, Naxos 8.554522), Erinnerung an Berlin (Marco Polo Johann Strauss I, Volume 7, 8.225283) and Abschied von S Petersburg (Johann Straus II, Vol.2, Naxos 8.554518).There are even Strauss analogues for Lumbye’s most famous work, the Jernbanedamp Galop (Steam Railway Galop, tr.3) in the form of Eduard Strauss’s Bahn frei! (Clear the tracks, Marco Polo 8.223483), Johann II’s Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Excursion Train, Naxos 8.554526) and Johann Senior’s Eisenbahnlustwalzer (literally Railway Pleasure Waltz, Marco Polo 8.225287).

Three conductors feature in the selections, though Giordano Bellincampi has the lion’s share. All the pieces are idiomatically performed—I didn’t detect any divergence of style among the three—and well recorded. The contributions of Sergei Azizian and Marianne Melnik in the Concert Polka (tr.6) are also excellent. I greatly enjoyed listening, especially as it allowed me to make the acquaintance of more than the two or three pieces that I knew. I especially enjoyed the Drømmebilleder Fantasia (tr.4), with its relief from the dance format. It’s a fine work in its own right, reminiscent of the way in which Josef Strauss transcended the dance format. I’m sure that this will now be among the select CDs that I keep when I need to be cheered up...The notes in the Naxos booklet are very detailed: they dispelled a number of popular misconceptions that I had accumulated, especially concerning the Railway Galop. I had somehow assumed that this referred to a fun ride in the Tivoli Gardens, where Lumbye was the orchestral director, rather than to the first railway line to be inaugurated in Denmark, from Copenhagen to Roskilde.

All in all this is a delightful release, at the very least fully worthy to stand alongside the selections from the Strauss family and Ziehrer which Naxos advertise in the booklet and on the insert [The Best of Josef Strauss 8.556846 and The Best of Ziehrer 8.556848].

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