AMONG THE names that are definitely not household words, at least in this country, is that of Franz Bauer-Theusl, a Viennese conductor. He has been attached to the orchestra of the Volksoper for at least two decades, and occasionally has turned up on equipment manufacturers' demonstration discs or presiding over concerto accompaniment. Philips now has entrusted to him a prestige production, a collection of Viennese waltzes, digitally recorded, that contains some of the most hypnotic, seductive, altogether intoxicating performances of this material ever committed to records (6514.067; cassette 7337.067).
The Waltz King himself is not represented here. What we have are the gorgeous "Dynamiden" by his elegant younger brother, Josef Strauss, Weber's "Invitation to the Dance," in the classic Berlioz orchestration, Ivanovici's "Danube Waves," "Die Schoenbrunner" by Lanner (a piece quoted in Stravinsky's "Petrushka"), Ziehrer's "Herreinspaziert!" (Op. 518--on themes from his operetta "Der Schaetzmeister"), and Komzak's heady "Bad'ner Mad'ln."
The Weber is the one disappointment; it receives a capable but hardly distinguished performance. All five of the other pieces, though, are incredibly effective, "Bad'ner Mad'ln" perhaps most of all. Bauer-Theussl is clearly in love with these waltzes, and he must love to dance, for he conducts all of them in real dance tempo, emphasizing the insinuating rhythm in such a way that even music critics' feet begin to tingle. The orchestra responds at what must be the very top of its form, and the sound is as sumptuous as the playing.
The note "Volume 1" encourages curiosity and impatience to have the next installment. Perhaps Volume 2 will include some of the great Johann Strauss' own lesser-known waltzes, such as the splendid "O schoener Mai" (on themes from "Prinz Methusalem"), which has yet to receive its first decent stereo recording. In the meantime, I would not imagine being without this delicious Volume 1, no matter how many duplications it might entail. The Komzak and Ziehrer alone make it downright irresistible.
Rossini overture packages pose duplication problems, too, but this consideration becomes trivial, again, in the face of really outstanding performances, such as those offered by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Claudio Scimone on Musical Heritage Society MHS 4466, on which the five overtures are those to "The Siege of Corinth," "Otello," "Maometto II," "Semiramide" and "L'Italiana in Algeri."
The first three of these titles are far less familiar than the last two, and very much worth getting to know. For "Otello," Rossini revised his overture to an earlier opera "Sigismondo"; he did this sort of thing often, of course, and this is a jolly-sounding piece for a tragedy. The one for "Maometto II" (an opera later revised to become "The Siege of Corinth," with a brand-new overture) is one of his finest, and ought to be heard more often.
Not long ago, Scimone conducted his Solisti Veneti in a complete recording of "L'Italiana in Algeri," with Marilyn Horne in the title role (RCA ARL3-3855). The overture gets a more brilliant performance on the new disc, which is first-rate in every respect.
The album notes, which fail to mention the origin of the "Otello" Overture, suggest that this is "the first appearance on disc of the 'Maometto II' Overture," but that piece is in one of Neville Marriner's Rossini collections (Philips 9500-887), together with the Sinfonia "al Conventello" which Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (which he inherited from Marriner) perform on Nonesuch D-79023.
Schwarz fills out his program with an apparent disc premiere--the "Grand Overture" Rossini may have written in his boyhood--and the well-loved but lately neglected Sinfonia in D major of Cherubini. Performances are tidy enough and the digital sound is clear, but it is infuriating to have the 27-minute Cherubini, before now always complete on a single side, interrupted for turnover here in order to avoid having an 11-minute side containing the two Rossini pieces alone. The purchaser gets no more music for his money, of course, and it's downright offensive to have the basic premise of the long-playing disc so contemptuously flouted.