Viennese Lilt And Light


Lehár, Kreisler and Strauss: Their very mention summons forth images of frothily gowned women, fans dangling from their wrists, waltzing the night away in the arms of gentlemen attired in tails and military regalia. Such images whirl through the mind as violinist Robert McDuffie, lovingly supported by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, soars through his winning 1995 recording, Viennese Violin: The Romantic Music Of Lehár, Kreisler And Strauss.

McDuffie begins with three of Lehár's early works. The Concertino for Violin and Orchestra in b-Minor was written when he was a student; both the Magyar Ábránd, Hungarian Fantasy, Op. 45 and Vergissmeinnicht, Concert Polka were written shortly thereafter, while Lehár was in the military. The music presages the charm of Lehár's numerous operettas, bubbling away with joy and verve.

Violinist/composer Fritz Kreisler was another lovebird. At times arranging works by other composers or pretending that others wrote his original melodies, Kreisler lavished considerable sweetness and charm on his irresistible music. A major antidote to today's headlines or chronic depression, his works bubble over with joy and virtuosic passagework. He must have had a ball writing and playing this stuff. Happily, McDuffie includes two Kreisler favorites, Liebeslied (Love's Sorrow) and Liebesfreud (Love's Joy). No analysis required.

An album entitled Viennese Violin must have at least one piece by the Waltz King, Johann Strauss, Jr. Here it is Hochzeits-Präludium (Wedding Prelude). The capper is Kunzel's exceptionally schmaltzy, ultimately droll orchestration of Sieczynski's beloved "Wien, Wien nur du Allein" (Vienna, City of My Dreams). Smiles abound.