Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International
December 2015

This is the Classical equivalent of the many Light Music discs put out by Guild, with one exception; theirs are historic recordings whilst this one was made in 1997 for Hyperion, released the following year on CDA66998. It fits in with those other recordings made by Ronald Corp and the New London Orchestra for this label

These genial numbers visit the favourites of the European genre of light classics. Inevitably the Austro-Hungarian Empire reveals its riches in the shape of the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, the earliest piece in the collection. Lehár is represented by the famously ebullient Gold and Silver, written for a Carnival Ball in 1902.

The muse turns Gallic when one listens to Pierné’s March of the Little Lead Soldiers which is scored with great refinement and is not to be confused with the rather similarly titled Parade of the Tin Soldiers by Leon Jessel, which offers rather broader, more overt pleasures. Hugo Alfvén represents Sweden with his vastly popular Swedish Polka whilst the appearance of Norwegian Johan Halvorsen, increasingly recorded these days—time was when all he was known for was his Handel ‘Passacaglia’, dished up for two strings—reminds listeners that he was the man who wrote The Entry of the Boyars.

The Dutch maestro Jonny Heykens will be known to all Light Music enthusiasts, though they may not know that he had earlier been a student of the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Rightly, Ständchen, his biggest hit, is here and played with great warmth of feeling into the bargain. Fortunately some lesser-known examples of the genre are also here, such as Oscar Fetrás’s Moonlight on the Alster, composed around 1900—the title refers to the river that functions as a tributary to the Elbe, near Hamburg. This evocative piece was actually the work of local Hamburg native Otto Faster going under a more exciting-sounding name. Weinberger was Czech-born and Schwanda the Bagpiper was to become the most popular Czech opera after The Bartered Bride—Rusalka notwithstanding.

With other goodies here and fine notes this reissue is still well worth revisiting.