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Dip Your Ears, No. 42 (Waltzing Schoenberg)

available at Amazon
J.Strauss II, Waltz Transcriptions, Berliner Streichquartet et al.
Berlin Classics 1258

You may not expect a Strauss disc reviewed from me when “Strauss” isn’t preceded by “Richard.” But exceptions have to be made – and for this little jewel of a disc certainly. Especially when the ever-popular Kaiserwaltzer (Emperor Waltz), Rosen aus dem Süden (Roses from the South), Wein, Weib und Gesang (Wine, Women, and Song), and the Schatzwaltzer (Treasure Waltz) from Der Zigeunerbaron are presented in their arrangements by Arnold (pre-“oe”) Schönberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern.

Part of the arrangements for Schönberg’s exclusive “Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen” (Association for Private Musical Performances), the Waltzes are not radical recompositions but – as was the club’s goal and achievement – true-as-possible arrangements for a small group of players (usually including strings, piano, harmonium, and occasionally some assorted winds) so as to present and better understand the works at hand. (This Strauss event was a one-off fundraising concert and the only of the series that was open to the public. The most famous arrangements of that club are Mahler’s Lied von der Erde and his fourth symphony, as well as Bruckner’s 7th.)

The fragrant Straussian textures that a cynic might call saccharine get a notably more modern, obviously leaner touch. None of the Viennese lilt is sacrificed, however. The works on this disc, now released in the U.S. in a beautifully printed edition, were new to me and all the happier a surprise. They are perfect as a luxurious little dessert and understood as such the contents should well be worth a stiff $20 for 43 minutes of a refreshing twist on undeniably delightful music. (Some people tend to balk at such short-playing discs: "The food's great" - "Yes, but the plates are so big...") If I hadn’t already bought my copy, I’d be sure to point out that the disc would make a perfect little gift of appreciation to… oh, gee… maybe your favorite music critic?!

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