||From the Vault...
"Favorites From The Classics: Johann Strauss, Jr."
© Reader's Digest Records
Year of Release: 1993
The Blue Danube
Voices Of Spring
Wine Women And
Roses From The South
The Vienna Woods
Excursion Train Polka
The Gypsy Baron
O Schoener Mai
Eljen A Magyari
New Pizzicato Polka
Reader's Digest related sites:
"Favorites From The Classics: Johann Strauss, Jr."
This week, Classical music is the focus of review -- One of the many
19th Century composers was Johann Strauss Jr. Reader's Digest released
a two-disc set, Favorites From The Classics: Johann Strauss, Jr. in 1993.
Where some compilations provide just a sampling of Strauss' written music,
Reader's Digest presented just a bit more throughout the two discs, with 22
beautifully crafted songs, performed by such orchestras as the National
Philharmonic Orchestra (Charles Gerhardt, Peter Gurth, Eric Hammerstein, Conductors),
the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Peter Gurth, Eric Hammerstein, Conductors), the
London Symphony Orchestra (Charles Gerhardt, Conductor).
The well-known "Blue Danube" should be no stranger to those familar with
classical music. Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra performs
this classic waltz in fantastic form. "Voices Of Spring" (Peter Gurth and the
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) is another classic, as I still can remember this song
(with vocals) from one of the many funny Three Stooges movie, where Curly dressed in
drag and lip-synched to this song, while the female vocalist sang behind a curtain.
Gurth and orchestra performs this great Strauss composition in full instrumental mode,
resulting in another song that will easily be listened to enjoyably, over and over.
"Vienna Bonbons" (Charles Gerhardt and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
was written for an Austrian ambassador's wife, Princess Pauline Metternich-Winneberg.
"Wine, Women And Song" (Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) was
written for the Fool's Evening held in Vienna in 1869. "Roses From The South"
(Charles Gerhardt and the London Symphony Orchestra), was a showcase waltz from Strauss's
seventh operetta, The Queen's Lace Handkerchief in 1880. "Tales From The Vienna
Woods" (Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) is another classical piece
that should be recognized by classical music lovers. It was inspired by Beethoven,
as he put a musical evocation of the Vienna Woods into his Sixth Symphony ("The Pastoral").
Sixty years years later, in 1868, Strauss painted his own affectionate and and unforgettable
portrait of the familiar trees and brushes, brooks and streams, and valleys to the hearts
of the Viennese. "Emperor Waltz" (Peter Gurth and the National Philharmonic
Orchestra) was based on the Revolution of 1848, and in 1888, when the wounds had healed,
Strauss composed this composition in Emperor Franz Joseph's honor.
Disc Two opens with "Overture To Die Fledermaus" (Peter Gurth and the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra), was his third operetta and best known (1874). "Champagne
Polka" (Peter Gurth and the Royal Philhamronic Orchestra) -- nice line from the liner
notes: "[the music] invades the ear and streams through the blood into the legs, and
even the most lethargic man... unknowingly begins to nod his head, rock his body and tap
his feet." It's true, this number (written in 1858) is a happy go-getter, and even has
champagne corks popping (long before Lawrence Welk came along!). "Annen Polka"
(Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) was named after Strauss's mother, Anna,
and dedicated to an Austrian archduchess of the same name. "Perpetual Motion"
(Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) was written in 1862 to ridicule the
public's tendency to worship the pyrotechnics of show-off performers while overlooking
the content of the music they played. Consisting of stunning variations of an eight-bar
theme, one after another, which whirl around and around, until, suddenly, it ends on an
unresolved chord. "Morning Papers" (Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra) -- Strauss was commissioned to write a waltz for the Concordia Ball in 1864.
Composer Jacques Offenbach had written "Evening Papers," as his contribution has
all but disappeared from the orchestral repertoire, but not for Strauss.
"Persian March" (Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra)
was one of 40+ marches Strauss had written. He mixes Middle Eastern musical strains with
more familiar Viennese-style melodic figures. "Excursion Train Polka" (Eric
Hammerstein and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) was composed on commission to celebrate
the launch of a Sunday pleasure run to the countryside. Featuring a nice train sound effect,
Strauss hated trains and had to be fortified with champagne before he would accept a ride
in one. "Overture To The Gypsy Baron" (Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic
Orchestra) is a very powerful piece, as it was composed for the third of Strauss's wives (Adele)
in 1885. It was also a great triumph when it was presented on the Waltz King's 60th birthday.
Over 150 polkas written, "Tritsch-Tratsch Polka" (Peter Gurth and the National
Philharmonic Orchestra) -- another interesting liner note info: It's title was Viennese slang
for "chitchat" or tittle-tattle," and Strauss intended the strings to imitate the animated
voices of gossiping ladies. "Pizzicato Polka" (Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra) was composed by Strauss and his ailing younger brother, Josef. "Pizzicato" is a
musical term referring to playing a stringed instrument by plucking the strings rather than
drawing a bow across them. Performed in 1869 in Russia, it was an immediate success.
"O Sconer Mai" (Eric Hammerstein and the National Philharmonic Orchestra); referred to
in English as "Oh Beautiful May) is a beautiful composition, as was most memorable from Strauss'
operetta Prince Methusalem. The energetic "Eljen A Magyar" by Peter Gurth and the
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was written for Strauss' sympathy for the Hungarian people's struggle
for liberty. "Russian March" by Eric Hammerstein and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was
dedicated to Czar Alexander III in 1887. Another powerful piece, its orchestration shines brightly.
"New Pizzicato Polka" by Peter Gurth and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was the sequel
to its predecssor, as it was written for a series of concerts that Edward Strauss was giving in
Hamburg, Germany 1892. "Thunder And Lightning Polka" by Peter Gurth and the Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra has the pizzicato style, and is a very energetic piece to listen to.
Thanks to the liner notes for this CD from Reader's Digest, as they were used
for this review.
This 2-disc set is a wonderful look at Johann Strauss Jr.'s career. It's an album that will
easily be enjoyed beautifully over and over, with no resistance of tireness. Classical music
maybe overlooked in today's music, but it is a wonderful getaway from the common sounds of today's
popular music. Discovering Classical is a treat, as Strauss is one of many early 19th-century
composers to relive his music and truly enjoy it.
© WSVNRadio.net. All rights reserved.
Review or any portion may not be reproduced
without written permission. Cover art is the
intellectual property of
Reader's Digest Records
and is used for reference purposes only.