J Strauss II
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/ernst Theis
CPO 777 950-2 99:05 mins (2 discs) Although 19th-century ballet scores – most notably Tchaikovsky’s and Delibes’s – embraced some of the most delightful orchestral invention of the Romantic era, they were often treated in cavalier fashion by choreographers and producers, with numbers cut, inserted, adapted and re-ordered with impunity according to whim. Johann Strauss’s Aschenbrödel (Cinderella) proved no exception. When Strauss died suddenly in June 1899 the score was still incomplete and it was left to ballet-operetta composer Joseph Bayer to collate all his sketches and drafts as the composer originally intended. This version was never performed, however, and by the time it was premiered two years later it had an entirely new scenario and was accordingly reassembled by Bayer. Most subsequent productions were based on this new version, which in a revised edition by Douglas Gamley received an outstanding recording by Richard Bonynge and the National Philharmonic (Decca).
This new recording is in effect a world premiere, therefore, as it is based on Michael Rot’s painstaking reconstruction of Strauss’s original from Bayer’s piano score and Strauss’s original sketches, which having been considered lost were miraculously rediscovered only a few years ago. Cast in two acts, it boasts a non-stop flow of enchanting ideas, including the principle Blue Danube waltz, and is played here by Vienna’s ORF Radio-symphonieorchester and Ernst Theis with an unmistakably Viennese flair for the music’s infectious dance rhythms. Refreshingly, Ernst Theis approaches the score as he might conducting in a dance theatre, with rhythms deftly pointed and Strauss’s radiant invention kept lightly on its toes. Julian Haylock PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★