Strauss in St Petersburg conducted by Neeme Järvi

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LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Strauss in St Petersburg
WORKS: Works by Johann Strauss II; plus Olga Smirnitskaya
PERFORMER: Olga Zaitseva (soprano); Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/ Neeme Järvi


We have the railways to thank for Johann Strauss II’s eleven summer seasons spent in St Petersburg, where he performed in the Vauxhall pavilion, based on the famous, eponymous London attraction and built by a philanthropical railway company. A number of pieces were premiered there, including the Krönungs-Marsch (composed especially for Tsar Alexander II’s coronation in 1856), the Alexandrinen -Polka (for the vivacious singer Alexandrine Schröder, whom Strauss had met in St Petersburg), and the Olga-Polka (to mark a Russian royal wedding). Also included is the Pizzicato-Polka, which Johann composed with his brother Josef (who helped shared Russian conducting duties during the 1869 season), and Erste Liebe (‘First Love’) by Russian aristocrat Olga Smirnitskaya, a poignant musical souvenir of a heart-felt summer romance with Johann.

Neeme Järvi and his Estonian players impart to these endlessly inventive scores an infectious sense of joie de vivre and conviviality that no doubt reflects the spirit in which they would have been performed during sunny afternoons spent in St Petersburg’s Pavlovsk Park. Typically first-rate production values from Chandos, including exemplary booklet notes from Strauss aficionado Peter Kemp, detailed listings of each piece that include all the tempo changes and sub-section titles, generous playing time and luxurious engineering that imparts to this glorious music a sparkling summer radiance and warm glow.


Julian Haylock