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Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, September 2011

The Slovak Sinfonietta may not be the Vienna Philharmonic but they play this music as to the manner born and the chorus is quite good. The solo singing is a bit variable. Generally speaking the women win hands down. Veronika Groiss and Isabella Ma-Zach…have several top numbers. Among the men the veteran Franz Födinger is a splendid singing-actor, making the most of the lovely waltz Schöne wilde Jugendzeit

The recording was made live and there is applause at the end of each act. That said, there are no disturbing stage noises or reactions from the audience. I suppose it was a concert performance. The recording balance varies a bit and especially in the first act the male singers are quite distantly recorded. Apart from this the sound is good.

All lovers of Viennese operetta should lend their ear to this issue. Don’t expect singing of the world class that EMI offered in the sixties and seventies…but the special charm of Strauss’s music is splendidly caught even so.

Richard Traubner
American Record Guide, September 2011

This was a much greater success, thanks probably to the great Alexander Girardi in a leading part…we can thank the Johann Strauss Edition of his works for this endeavor, which was reconstructed and then recorded in Slovakia with the participation of the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain. Peter Kemp, from that society, wrote the fine notes. The orchestra, under Christian Pollack (who also arranged the reconstruction of the original score), gives a real shimmer to the music; and the soloists are excellent…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Andrew Lamb
Gramophone, July 2011

Strauss’s forgotten operetta receives fervent advocacy from Slovakian forces

Die Göttin der Vernunft (“The Goddess of Reason”) was Johann Strauss’s last completed operetta, produced in 1897, when he was 71. It achieved only a short run. Discovery of the original performing material by conductor Christian Pollack in the archives of the Theater an der Wien prompted the concert performances in Žilina, Slovakia, in December 2009 which are preserved in this recording. The operetta’s history is interesting in that, having committed to it before the book was completed, Strauss became disenchanted and composed only under threat of legal action if he didn’t. After his death, libretto and score were formally separated, the music being reset to a new text as Reiche Mädchen (“Rich Girls”, 1909). It has long been stated that the book was likewise reworked into Franz Lehár’s Der Graf von Luxemburg (“The Count of Luxembourg”, 1909), though any similarity is distinctly hard to find. The setting here is the French city of Châlons at the time of the French Revolution and Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, and the plot revolves around the Goddess of Reason, centrepiece of a festival in November 1793 designed to promote the atheistic Cult of Reason.

Perhaps largely because of its unhappy history, posterity has rather dismissed the operetta. However, this recording suggests that to be highly unfair. Though it may lack the lyrical development and individual atmosphere of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig and Der Zigeunerbaron, its score is melodically livelier than those of other late Strauss operettas rediscovered through Naxos recordings—Jabuka and Fürstin Ninetta. Featuring military personnel and prominent march numbers, the score indeed has something of the character of Suppé’s Fatinitza, also recently recorded by CPO (11/07).

The performance is an excellent one, Pollack conducting in spirited fashion, with soprano Veronika Groiss and tenors Manfred Equiluz and Franz Födinger outstanding among the soloists. There’s audience applause at the end of Acts 1 and 3 but curiously not at the end of Act 2. Though there’s no dialogue, the accompanying booklet has highly informative notes and synopsis. That such a rarity can be rescued from oblivion to such high standard at Naxos prices is quite astonishing.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2011

A hundred and eleven years after its last performance, recently discovered parts for Johann Strauss’s final operetta, Die Gottin der Vernunft (The Goddess of Reason) provide us with a singularly funny score. Poking fun at the French Revolution in 1896, together with the leading lady’s need to appear naked in a see-through dress, was probably not the flavour of the day. So it seems that Strauss—who realised his mistake before completing the work—tried to cover up with some memorable music that including one of his finest waltz melodies. The story is as improbably as they come, with a Countess who is trying to escape France only to be mistaken as the French Revolutionary girl, Ernestine, a rather fanatical character who appears in public as the Goddess of Reason, dressed, so the libretto states, ‘barefoot up to the neck’. To prove she is that person she too will have to strip-off. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but it all ends up happily. Of course, the possibility that this would get past the censor of the time was unthinkable. Yet Strauss’s apparent ambivalence to the work did not prevent later changes to the score, and it remained in the repertoire until the end of the century. Then decaying in obscurity, it was found by the conductor, Christian Pollack, in the vaults of the Austrian National Library, the handwritten parts, with later additions and deletions, being in an advanced state of degeneration. With over two thousand photos of those pages he painstakingly reconstructed it as it would have been heard on its opening night together with the later additions made by Strauss. The cast assembled for two concert performances is particularly fine, with the powerful soprano of Veronika Groiss as the Countess, and the silvery voiced Isabella Ma-Zach as the Goddess of Reason. The veteran Franz Fodinger is perfect for the 60-year-old, Bonhomme, with the light lyric tenor of Kirlianit Cortes in the romantic role of Captain Robert. Wolfgang Veith and Manfred Equiluz complete the main characters. Yet it is the much lamented Christian Pollack, one of the great conductors of Viennese light music, who was on the rostrum to breath life into his discovery. I guess no one will be better equipped, the Slovak Sinfonietta playing excellently, and his young chorus so full of enthusiasm. Though the booklet does not make clear, this is a very fine ‘live’ recording taken from the two performances in December 2009.

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