The Wiener Symphoniker’s Springtime in Vienna concert has been a highlight of the Austrian capital’s musical calendar for forty years. Now, for the first time, its freshness and vigour has been captured on CD in a sparkling recording of the 2016 programme. Conducted by renowned Austrian maestro Manfred Honeck, the orchestra takes us on a musical tour of the Austrian countryside before celebrating the capital in all its springtime glory. Alongside the internationally familiar music of Beethoven and Suppé, we are introduced to composers whose contribution to Vienna’s lively musical and social life has perhaps been unfairly overlooked by the wider public – and rediscover a forgotten ballet by Richard Strauss.
The scherzo from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Suppé’s Overture Poet and Peasant both celebrate rustic life and the beauty of nature. Equally firmly rooted in the countryside are the Austrian Dances by Max Schönherr (1903–1984), whose light music concerts on Vienna Radio were essential to the postwar rebirth of the city. Conjuring up the whirl of Vienna’s ballrooms are waltzes by another composer whose fame has been unfairly eclipsed: Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843–1922). Ziehrer was once aggressively promoted as the only serious competitor to the Strauss family (partly thanks to his publisher’s having fallen out with the latter!). The Strausses are not forgotten in this programme, either: we hear the polka Wien über alles (Vienna above all) by the youngest Strauss brother, Eduard (1835–1916).
Of particular interest is music by another, unrelated Strauss: the Munich-born Richard Strauss (1864–1949). One-time resident of Vienna and co-director of the State Opera, Richard Strauss never wrote a more echt-Viennese work than his 1924 ballet ‘Schlagobers’ (Whipped Cream). Its scenario, featuring children who overindulge on pralines and pastries when let loose in a coffee shop, was intended as a homage to the city’s sweet-toothed culture, but proved to be ill-timed in an era of comparative privation. In 1932 Strauss showed his affection for the music by concocting a suite from the ballet – the 2016 Springtime in Vienna concert offers a rare chance to share his fondness for it.