Marble Surface

Joseph Lanner

Die Schönbrunner, Walzer, Op. 200

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Yes, I know it has been recorded lots of times, and some of the recordings are very good indeed. However, on my visit to Vienna in 2020 I made a copy of the autograph score to study. It became very obvious that what I was looking at was very different from what I had been listening to.

Most other recordings play an approximation to the score with at least the unplayable trumpet parts reconfigured (Lanner wrote for much longer trumpets than modern ones and in a register that they can’t reach). Most view the music through Strauss tinted glasses. It’s a good enough piece to stand up to considerable mistreatment but a lot of detail gets lost in the mush. Lanner’s scoring is very spare, almost sparse in places, particularly in the wind. Most recordings overdo the percussion. Lanner only uses two percussionists, side drum and bass drum/timpani. Most people add at least cymbals. It is possible that Lanner had cymbals doubling bass drum by default, but they are not mentioned in the score. There are other Lanner pieces with written out cymbal parts. Not conclusive, I know.

Most recordings are too slow for a waltz of this period. Some are too slow for a waltz of any period! In the interests of research I have played all of the recordings I could find of this piece. For some, a couple of bars was enough!

My favourites are – Harnoncourt with Concentus Musicus on original instruments (https://youtu.be/4a-PjuahCBg). Uses Lanner’s score. Adds cymbals. Brass instruments at right pitch. Wish I had his ophicleide. Not dance-like enough for me and the balance is aggressive, but if I had to pick one …

Dörner with the Orchestre Régional de Cannes. (https://youtu.be/ieESyLK4RGo) He is the expert on Lanner. He has had to compromise with the unplayable brass parts and plays all of the repeats in the score, which makes it run to about 15 minutes.

John Eliot Gardiner with the Vienna Philharmonic (https://youtu.be/vhoDqZjbEos) if you want a top class, modern orchestra. He’s got as close as possible to Lanner’s score. It sounds as if he has cut the string section down a bit and not doubled every instrument. No schmalz, schlagobers, cymbals, triangles, harps or Strauss-isms either. Really very impressive. It should be compulsory to make every New Year’s Day conductor who wants to schedule this piece listen to this version.

It is, in my opinion, the best waltz written before the “Golden Age” of the 1860’s. I’m sure Lanner took great care with this piece. It is noticeable that his Op. 100 Jubel Walzer is a notch better than its neighbours. So too is Op. 200