From Mozart’s Dances to Lanner and Strauss
Concentus Musicus Wien
This album, recorded by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his orchestra Concentus Musicus Wien and provocatively entitled Walzer Revolution is not simply another example of the conductor’s philological interest in little known works, but and has the ambitious purpose to trace the rise of the waltz as a symptom of social and musical change, which begins in Mozart’s dance music and finds its fulfilment in the two most important composers of the Biedermeier period, Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss the Elder. This is a wonderful journey through four decades of music, starting from Mozart’s dances (K 571, composed for the 1789 Carnival, and K 603 and 609, written for Carnival, 1791) and then moving to Strauss’s famous waltzes and to the world premiere recording of Lanner’s arrangement of Mercadante’s Pas de neuf, the Erste Kettenbrücke-Walzer, Der Carnival in Paris. Galopp and the Schäfer-Quadrille.
These works were performed from their original manuscript sources, but philology plays an important role also for the most famous works, since they are performed in versions which differ from those usually heard (as Strauss’s Radetzky March, where only two horns are employed rather than four). The use of original instruments, moreover, gives the possibility of choosing among ten different types of trumpet and five different types of clarinet to adapt to the pitches prescribed by Johann Strauss the Elder and Lanner, who include in their works instruments as trumpets in E, A and low G which are not used anymore.
The term “revolution” is appropriate for this recording for another reason: if we consider it in its positive aspects, it gives the idea that something animated and vivacious, but sometimes disconcerting, is happening. The use of different types of instrument and, in the case of the famous pieces, of different arrangements is easily recognizable and maybe it is exactly this variety which contributes to the brilliant, original sound of Walzer Revolution and is also a way (who knows?) to induce the listener to pay special attention to every passage, every nuance and to rediscover again something he or she thought to know well. Harnoncourt’s enthusiasm (there must be some of it after the serious, extremely serious, archive research) is enthralling and his energy and comprehension of these works are unsurpassable. Even if you do not know the deep meaning of Walzer Revolution, you understand that something more important that listening to some joyous music is happening and I am sure that you can find in this more pleasure than if you had listened to this music with the hope to spend a carefree hour.