Strauss (Johann I & II)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss (Johann I & II)
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Waltzes, Polkas, Marches,
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 2292-45998-2 DDD
In the dance-crazy city that was Hapsburg Vienna in the 19th century, the Strauss family ruled unopposed, encapsulating in their music the carefree, wistful spirit of a long Indian summer between Napoleon and Bismarck. Everyone took their pleasure with them — from kings and emperors to courtesans, from Wagner and Brahms to Bruckner and Mahler.

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This new collection of old favourites is glossy and suave, with plenty of precision and detail (bass lines, solo ‘spots’ and brass parts in particular). What it lacks is electricity and charisma. Viennese dances need careful handling: too slow and they can become pedantic, too hasty and they can seem trivial. On this occasion the right chemistry eludes Barenboim: exceptions apart, he’s altogether too ‘careful’. Isolating the big moments, underplaying the charm, rushing the links, jolting the tempo, isn’t what Strauss is about. The Chicago Symphony and the Strauss dynasty remain indelibly linked with Reiner. Barenboim isn’t the match of that partnership, nor does he quite have the latterday flame of a Carlos Kleiber. Ates Orga