It doesn’t always have to be the Vienna Philharmonic to skillfully nurture the Viennese waltz, polka, and galop culture. And it doesn’t require New Year’s Day to indulge in the gems that are associated with the Strauss dynasty, a dynasty said to have invented the Viennese waltz. It might even at times be the Vienna Symphony, who are not worthy to stand in the shadow of the Philharmonic, and who are used to playing second fiddle in Vienna. But since the conductor of the brand new album ‘Johann Strauss’, Manfred Honeck – currently head of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – administered a dose of tender loving care to the wounded soul of the Symphony, it proved good. “It’s been a great pleasure and an honor to work with the Vienna Symphony on the music of the brothers Strauss, because they are familiar not only with the traditions of tempo rubato, but they also have that strong empathy which is essential to do justice to the unique character of each Strauss work.” Well, there we have it. Presented in this album are unmistakably typical Viennese style waltzes, polkas, and galop music, which are no longer the exclusive trademark of the Philharmonic, but now in equal measure the embodiment of the symphony orchestra from this Austrian city on the Danube. The current album is the latest proof of this fact. But an orchestra must truly be at home on the shores of the Blue Danube, deliver this style of music with a dose humor, and if done successfully, they will elevate themselves to the level of something exceptional. Waltz perfection is attained when a former member of the Vienna orchestra joins this orchestra as conductor as some decades ago the Philharmonic’s concertmaster Willi Boskowsky or now Manfred Honneck also emerged out of this orchestra. At least one of the two traditional Vienna orchestras is required for this to happen. Proof that this is the case can be heard by re-listening to the CD, ‘Strauss in Berlin’ by the local philharmonic, or even to the formidable former Vienna Symphony’s Nikolas Harnoncourt, who, while he had been enriched with his experience in Vienna and had drunk from its lifeblood, was unable to form a truly capable and relaxed Viennese waltz orchestra from Berliners. On the Spree River in Germany, a waltz is just a round dance in threequarter time, and no Viennese waltz, polka, or galop is played in its faster two-four variant. Far from the shores of the Danube.
On this ‘Johann Strauss’ album with its shiny gold cover, the Vienna Symphony presents overtures, waltzes, galops, and polkas on its own label; and selections by not only Johann Strauss II, but also his brothers, Eduard und Josef. The album should, therefore, more correctly be called ‘Johann Strauss II and his brothers.’ However, more important is the fact that piece by piece the orchestra and conductor pay particular attention to the specific idiom; they exhibit instinctive control to always arrive at just the right tone, thereby opening the world of the three Strauss brothers up to the listener. And they do so not on the basis of the somewhat self-indulgent sound of the VPO but based on an elegant, fresh and colorfully twinkling sound benefitting the Strauss dances at least as good as the almost comfortable, cosy pace of the philharmonic competition.
In addition to the finely tuned overture to the operetta ‘Zigeunerbaron’ [Gypsy Baron] by Johann Strauss, his splendid and his spirited ‘Furioso‘, and the fast paced polka ‘Unter Donner und Blitz’ [Under Thunder and Lightning] – which must not be missed in every New Year’s Concert – there are animal and plant images to marvel at from the waltz empire of the three brothers: Eduard’s ‘Die Biene’ (‘The Bee’); Josef’s ‘Die Libelle’ (‘The Dragonfly’); Johann’s captivating ‘Dorfschwalben aus Österreich’ (‘Village Swallows of Austria’) and his popular waltz ‘Rosen aus dem Süden’ (‘Roses from the South’). Johann’s ‘Tritsch- Tratsch’ polka and the powerful ‘Unter Donner and Blitz’, a fast paced polka, round out the Strauss festival. In addition, there are Josef’s ‘Feuerfest!’[Festival of Fire!], and Johann’s ‘Im Krapfenwaldl’ [In the Krapfenwaldl] – a swinging French polka. This is entertainment in pure Viennese style, incomparably light and relaxed, staged by the Vienna Symphony in top form, and led by the elegant baton of her fellow countryman, Manfred Honeck.
We listened to this [96 or 48?] kHz 24-bit FLAC download in an acoustically optimized listening room, through Revel Gem2/B15a loudspeakers, driven by a custom-made PWM digital amplifier; with its SPDIF input connected directly to a dedicated audio computer for the downloaded data.
Sampling rate: 48kHz verified
Bit depth 24 bit: okay
The available technical spectrum is fully utilized