WORKS: Viennese dances & songs, 1760-1860
PERFORMER: Die Eipeldauer
CATALOGUE NO: EX 443-2
This is a refreshing example of scholarly discovery, evaluation and presentation applied to popular music. The title translates roughly as ‘Upstairs/downstairs’, and the music reflects these two strata of Viennese society. Few of the composers are familiar, though there is a long sequence of waltzes by Diabelli based on Rossini tunes. Most of the programme is played on period violins and double bass, with the kind of nonchalance which suits background music for dancing or dining.
A fortepiano accompanies Manfred Equiluz, his tenor slipping into semi-falsetto above hurdy-gurdy in a dialogue between a Croatian farmer and a Viennese maiden, and his impeccable enunciation conveying the earthy humour or irony of topical and witty songs. The recording nicely captures the spaces of beer-cellar, dance-hall or salon as appropriate. The disc is a valuable archive but, alas, without the background clink of cutlery or the hum of inattentive voices, much proves a dreary musical experience.
‘Napoleon’s Confession’ wears thin long before its 16 verses are done; brief four-square dances on two or three crudely harmonised chords follow each other in seemingly endless succession. The scholarship is admirable, the notes full but, divorced from its social function, the music is generally too trite to withstand close scrutiny. George Pratt