Johann Strauss I & II

COMPOSERS: Johann Strauss I & II
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Anniversary edition of 140 works
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/various conductors
CATALOGUE NO: 459 734-2 ADD mono/stereo Reissue (1950-98)
This is the centenary year of Johann Strauss’ death and the 150th of that of his father (known respectively as the Younger and the Elder), but this limited edition of all the recordings of both mens’ music ever made by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has other milestones to celebrate. It marks the 70th anniversary of the first all-Strauss concert given in 1929 by the VPO under Clemens Krauss, and the 60th of the first New Year’s Day concert (largely of music by the Strauss family) in Vienna’s Musikverein.

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Eight of the nine CDs are devoted to Strauss the Younger (who wrote the Emperor Waltz and Tales from the Vienna Woods), one to his father and two to historical recordings (1929-59). Many of the recordings are from New Year’s Day concerts from 1975-98, the others from the recording studio. Conductors of the former range from Boskowsky, Karajan and Maazel to Muti, Abbado and Mehta (but regrettably no Carlos Kleiber). In the latter are found Krauss, Furtwangler, Krips, Walter, Szell and (Erich) Kleiber; 146 tracks in all with some of the more famous music (e.g The Blue Danube Waltz) heard in several interpretations.

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Though it took 30 years before the VPO included this music in their concerts (lifting it from light music to high art), they then became the undisputed masters of that elegant, poised rubato, which is the quintessential ingredient of the Strauss style and everything here is played with the utmost refinement. One can follow him from Op.1 (the Sinngedichte waltzes) to one of his last works, the Herzenskonigin Polka Op.445 half a century later, and en route are gems like the Overture The Goddess of Reason under Maazel’s direction from the violin (Strauss-style) which he plays gorgeously, full of unrestrained portamento, or the thrillingly played Electrofor polka. The historic discs may be dry of acoustic and occasionally awry in ensemble but Kleiber brings wit to K¸nstlerleben, Szell panache to the Tritsch-Tratsch polka and Krauss stylish nuances to 1001 Nights waltz. Enjoy all these discs for that anticipatory thrill during Strauss’ slow introductions which invariably herald one of his irresistible melodies.