Wedding Celebrations (Budapest Strauss Ensemble/ Istvan Bogar) (Naxos: 8.550900)
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The Viennese traditional of Schrammel-Musik stems from the Schrammel family of performers in the later nineteenth century. Johann Schrammel (1850 -1893) was a violinist in the Harmonie and Josephstadt theatre orchestras and in the salon orchestra of Margold. The Schrammel Trio was established in 1878, later to be enlarged into a quartet, led by Johann Schrammel's younger brother Joseph, also a violinist. Both brothers wrote music, but Johann Schrammel's Wien bleibt Wien, written in 1887, remains the most popular of all that they composed.
Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880) occupied a position in Paris comparable to that of Johann Strauss in Vienna. Born in Cologne in 1819, the son of a cantor in a Cologne synagogue, Jacob, later Jacques Offenbach studied at the Paris Conservatoire and earned his living at first as a cellist, notably in the orchestra of the Paris Opéra-Comique, and then as a soloist. He later made a name for himself principally as a composer of operetta, particularly after the success of Orpheus in the Underworld in 1858. La vie parisienne enjoyed a similar success when it was first staged in 1866, and the polka and can-can from that work must be among the best known of all music.
Music in Vienna was dominated for the greater part of the century by the Strauss family. The older Johann Strauss set up his orchestra in 1825, the year of the birth of his eldest son, also Johann. In spite of his efforts to guide his sons into other fields of employment, Johann and his younger brothers Josef and Eduard all eventually worked as musicians, playing, directing and composing music for the dance-halls and places of entertainment not only of Vienna, but of all those parts of the world where the music of Vienna was enjoyed, from Pavlovsk to Boston. Johann Strauss (1825 - 1899) wrote his Figaro-Polka in 1868. His operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), from which the Entry March is taken, is one of the most successful of Strauss operettas and was first staged in Vienna in 1885. The Gypsy Baron came some eleven years after the even more famous Die Fledermaus (The Bat), from which the Bohemian Polka is taken. The Wedding Celebrations collection also offers a Spanish Dance from Fledermaus. The Annen-Polka of 1852 is included, with Wein, Weib und Gesang (Wine, Woman and Song), written in 1869, a waltz that has seemed, by its very title, to sum up the light-hearted world of Vienna, much as the famous Radetzky March epitomizes the spirit of Hungary. Josef Strauss (1827 -1870), an engineer by training, joined his brother in the family enterprise, in spite of chronic ill health. His Polka-Mazurka Frauenherz was written in 1865 and Flora some years earlier.
Part of the Austro-Hungarian bandmaster tradition, Josef Franz Wagner (1856 - 1908) contributes a Tyrolean Woodcutters' March, while the Hungarian Jakob Pazeller, a near contemporary, adds his best known work, Souvenir de Herkulesbad. The waves of the Danube flow further away with the Romanian losif Ivanovici's Valurile Dunarii, better known as the Donauwellen or Waves of the Danube Waltz. For good measure the Hungarian conductor István Bogár adds his own arrangement of Bavarian Ländler, confirming the cheerful mood of the wedding festivities.
Budapest Strauss Ensemble
Founded in 1986 by István Bogár, the Budapest Strauss Ensemble consists of players from the finest of Hungarian symphony orchestras. Although dedicated to the rediscovery and performance of music by the celebrated Strauss family from Austria, the orchestra has a wide repertoire in performance and frequently plays works by such composers as Brahms, Bartók, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Liszt, Couperin and Ravel. Many of the leading players are soloists in their own right and the leader, Peter Hidi, was a recipient of the Liszt Prize.
István Bogár was born in Budapest in 1937 and graduated from the Liszt Academy as a composer in 1963, after earlier instrumental studies. In 1968 he became deputy editor-in-chief of Editio Musica Budapest and in 1972 he was appointed to the position of dramaturge for the National Philharmonic. Since 1976 he has been musical secretary to the Hungarian State Orchestra, under János Ferencsik, and since 1983 director of the music ensembles of the Hungarian Radio.
In addition to his varied work in musical administration, Bogár has won a reputation as a composer and as a conductor, often of his own compositions. He has appeared in recent years with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and the Budapest Strauss Orchestra, touring Switzerland and France with successful programmes devoted to the work of Johann Strauss. This has resulted in invitations from Italy, Belgium and England for further tours.