O Straus – Piano Concerto, Reigen-Walzer, etc

Olivier Triendel (piano); German Radio Philharmonic Saarbrucken and Kaiserslautern (CPO)

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5552802_Struass

O Straus
Piano Concerto in B minor; Reigen-Walzer; Serenade for String Orchestra; Die Prinzessen von Tragant
Olivier Triendel (piano); German Radio Philharmonic Saarbrucken and Kaiserslautern
CPO 555 280-2   57:38 mins

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Despite securing widespread fame and fortune as an operetta composer, Oscar Straus created some affable music in other genres, particularly during the earlier part of his career when he was a student of Max Bruch in Berlin. This thoroughly entertaining and warmly recorded release gives us a good idea of his talents, demonstrating in particular his gift for writing memorable melodies and clothing them in attractive orchestral colours. Undoubtedly the most ambitious work here is the big romantic Piano Concerto dating from the 1890s. With unmistakeable allusions to a host of 19th-century composers including Grieg, Liszt and Bruch, it’s hardly an original masterpiece. Yet there’s a disarming simplicity to the way it unfolds that proves to be irresistibly attractive, and Oliver Triendl and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie under Ernst Thies perform the work with total conviction.

Even more enticing to my mind is the neo-classical Serenade for String Orchestra which offers a level of melodic distinction and delicacy of scoring in its five short movements that should by rights make it a worthy companion to the much better-known examples by Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and Elgar. Once again, conductor and orchestra come up trumps with a wonderfully mellifluous performance. Altogether, a disc guaranteed to boost spirits during difficult times.

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Erik Levi