Various Artists

Best of Symphonic Lehár

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When a composer's legacy is strongly associated with one genre, works in other categories can be overlooked and over time become obscure. Franz Lehár was enormously successful with his operettas, most notably The Merry Widow and The Land of Smiles, and his long career in the theater overshadowed his efforts in the areas of orchestral and keyboard music, which rarely get a hearing today. Thanks to CPO, a series of releases have been devoted to Lehár's tone poems, overtures, suites, waltzes, intermezzos, and piano pieces, and the four albums have been collected into a box set, The Best of Symphonic Lehár. Recorded between 1996 and 2002, the performances are wonderfully reproduced with CPO's spacious and vibrant sound, and the music sounds impressive in its orchestral richness and wide frequency range. In terms of the music's character, Lehár's theatrical flair is evident in every work, and he never missed an opportunity to fill his music with gorgeous melodies. Indeed, one could say that Lehár's forms are there only to showcase his tunes, but many composers would envy his ability to produce one memorable theme after another, a gift perhaps surpassed only by Tchaikovsky or Strauss. Whether these recordings by NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, under Klauspeter Seibel, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Michail Jurowski, or pianist Wolf Harden become popular enough to start a true revival remains to be seen. But listeners who relish post-Romantic light music will find much to enjoy here.

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