Carl Michael Ziehrer Edition, Volume 5: Operetta Overtures—Ball bei Hof; Das dumme Herz; Der bleiche Zauberer; Der Fremdenführer; Der Schätzmeister; Der schöne Rigo; Die drei Wünsche; Manöverkinder; Ein Deutschmeister; Ein tolles Mädel; König Jérôme. Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Christian Pollack. Marco Polo. $9.99.
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Ziehrer deserves better, and Christian Pollack – an outstanding interpreter of the light music of Ziehrer’s era – gives him his very best, thanks to beautiful playing by the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks belong too, of course, to Ziehrer, whose operetta overtures are in many ways more attractive than his dance works, which are often rather formulaic. There is one real gem on this CD: Die drei Wünsche (“The Three Wishes”), a 1901 work that for a time held its own against nothing less than Lehár’s The Merry Widow, has an overture that really sparkles. It starts with a flourish reminiscent of Suppé, moves into particularly bouncy dance tunes, then presents an unusually affecting waltz – all in clever, well-thought-out orchestration.
There is plenty to like in most of the other overtures here as well. The earliest, König Jérôme (“King Jerome”), dates to 1878. It is very tuneful and smooth, and features a simple waltz that is one of Ziehrer’s loveliest. The latest work here is Manöverkinder (“The General’s Children”), from 1912, which is episodic and predictably martial, including nice harp touches and a waltz in which sighs are practically audible. It is one of four works given world première recordings on this CD.
Das dumme Herz (“The Stupid Heart” or, perhaps more forgivingly, “The Foolish Heart”) is also a world première. It has an upbeat start, uses a solo violin in ways reminiscent of Lehár, and includes nice percussion touches – but its large-scale waltz, despite being in three-quarter time, is rather foursquare. The third world première is Der bleiche Zauberer (“The White Magician”), which is quite short and contains effects that, in Mozart’s time, had been considered “Turkish.” The fourth world première is Der schöne Rigo (“Charming Rigo”), orchestrated by Pollack himself (the original orchestration is lost). Here the tunes tumble one after the other and the waltz, like many of those by Ziehrer, has a slight flavor of Lehár.
There are two other works here that are premières of a sort. Ball bei
The three remaining works are pleasant, if not particularly distinguished. Der Schätzmeister (“The Pawnbroker”) has a strong, fanfare-like opening, but its waltz has the “oompah” rhythm of Ziehrer’s lesser efforts in this form. Ein Deutschmeister, whose title refers to a famed regiment of which Ziehrer was bandmaster, features a military-sounding snare drum and trumpet calls. And Ein tolles Mädel (“Crazy Girl”), which has a military plot – a girl bets that she can go unrecognized as a female if she spends a day as a soldier in the men’s barracks – has nice harp and triangle touches, including some in a waltz section.
Ziehrer was not a composer at the level of the Strauss family – who in 19th-century