The Waltz: Ecstasy and Mysticism (CD review)

Werner Ehrhardt, Concerto Koln; Vladimir Ivanoff, Sarband. Archiv B0004765-02.

It seems like every classical album these days has to have a gimmick, a theme. With this one it's an exploration of the influence of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Western European waltz on the music of the Ottoman Turks. The disc alternates comparative selections from both musical worlds to make its points, and it's a follow-up to the album Dream of the Orient in which the same performers offered up much the same thing.

The disc is certainly enlightening, but I wouldn't say it's entirely entertaining. None of the record's twenty-nine tracks goes on for very long, most of the pieces lasting only one or two minutes, the longest just over four. With all these bits and pieces thrown at us, and with alternating Western (Concerto Koln) and Eastern (Sarband) ensembles, the effect is somewhat dizzying.

Werner Ehrhardt
Among the Western composers (in this case, German and Austrian) are Mozart, Lanner, Beethoven, and Strauss, Sr. Among the Eastern composers are Dede Efendi, Abdi Effendi, Demetrius Cantemir, and Zeki Mehmed Aga. The producers titled the CD Ecstasy and Mysticism because the Turkish composers assimilated some Western waltz rhythms into their reflective and religious works. As the booklet insert tells us, "even entering into the ritual of the 'whirling dervishes.'" Fair enough. But when we don't get to hear more than a minute or two of anything in particular, I wonder how much impact either the waltz or the mysticism has on a listener.

Fortunately, Maestros Ehrhardt and Ivanoff conduct lively, spirited interpretations of the music, and the ensembles play remarkably well for them. Unfortunately, because the music is so delightful, it just tends to make one long for more.

Not helping matters is that DG Archiv's sonics appear unimpressive at best. The disc, which Archiv released in 2005, sounds excessively warm and soft, yet the engineers recorded it relatively close-up. Go figure. Of course, the Archiv engineers may have calculated the sound by design in order to tailor it to the romanticism of the music; I don't know.

In any case, I liked the album's concept quite a lot; I just didn't care much for its execution.


To listen to a brief excerpt 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.

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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