Richard Eilenberg was one of the best light music composers not named Strauss. I said so when he first came to my attention, on two volumes of the Johann Strauss Society’s “Spirit of Vienna
” series. His Die Jagd nach dem Glück
stood out from the crowd as the most tuneful, joyful, memorable piece in the series. Now here’s a CD-length solo outing for Eilenberg to prove his worth. According to ArkivMusic
, this all-Eilenberg CD is the first ever.
It’s a treat! From the real and imitative birdcalls of the Die Mühle im Schwarzwald
idyll to the breezy, oh-so-fashionable step of nearly every march on the program (the arrival of the Cossacks, who come bearing quotes of Brahms and Liszt, is especially fun), there are many delights here. Unter Italien’s blauem Himmel
proves Eilenberg’s ability to write Strauss-style waltzes with full introductions and lush tunes; the Mandolin Serenade is for anybody who likes Strauss’s Pizzicato Polka. The Prince Heinrich march is a great number.
The acoustic suffers from the same deficiencies as Marco Polo’s old Strauss family series. Despite a totally different orchestra, venue, production team, and label, CPO seems to have replicated the unfortunate sound of the old Slovak Marco Polo discs: reverberant winds and brass paired with recessed strings, wacky balances, and a tiny violin section. Consider the start of the Norwegian galop: the flute and oboe accompanying the violins actually drown them out. Still, if you’re used to the Marco Polo Strauss series, you won’t mind.
One interesting biographical fact about Richard Eilenberg is only hinted at in the booklet. A photograph shows his grave, which he shares with one ‘Dorothea Eilenberg’. I did some digging on Google and found evidence that Dorothea was his wife, which is striking, since Dorothea was born when Richard was 41, so when he died at the age of 79 she was only 38. She lived for over forty more years. Richard Eilenberg was born in 1848, the year of Europe’s great revolutions; his wife died in 1970, two years after the Tet Offensive. Think about that for a moment.
For fans of Viennese light music, a cheerful addition to their shelves.