Lehar: Overtures and Waltzes (CD review)

Michael Jurowski, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. CPO 999 891-2.

Apart from the operetta The Merry Widow, you don't hear much of the music of Franz Lehar (1870-1948) anymore. I suppose his brand of slightly schmaltzy romanticism has long since become passé. And when an album like this one of the man's orchestral music does come along, some people no doubt compare it to Willi Boskovsky's sprightly, mid-Eighties recording for EMI. Fortunately, most of the material on conductor Michael Jurowski's 2003 release with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra is different from that included on the Boskovsky disc, so Jurowski's program makes an attractive complement to the older recording.

The only partial duplication is the music from The Merry Widow, as we might expect, with Boskovsky giving us a briefer synopsis and Jurowski the longer, more complete overture. While I still prefer Boskovsky's lighter, bouncier way with things, certainly Jurowski provides plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

In addition, Jurowski gives us the waltzes Altwiener Liebeswalzer ("Old Viennese Love Waltz"), Wilde Rosen ("Wild Roses Waltz"), Adria Walzer ("Adriatic Waltz"), and the Grutzner Waltz, plus the overtures to Clo-Clo and Der Gottergatte ("Divine Spouses"). The conductor plays each of these pieces with sparkle and wit, with an orchestra that apparently knows the music well and is not ashamed to share it with the world.

CPO's big, lush sound, combined with the relatively large size of Jurowski's orchestra, appeared to me a bit overwhelming in the opening Merry Widow music, especially compared to the slightly smaller ensemble Boskovsky uses. Nevertheless, the ear adjusts. The sonics seem decently spread out across the sound stage, and they project a good deal of warmth and resonance, if rather modest depth of field. The result is reasonably natural and realistic to the concert hall, but it may not win over a lot of audiophile admirers.

JJP

To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click here:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa