The Philharmonics: Oblivion
A fun disc and nearly – but not quite – a terrific one. The Philharmonics are an instrumental ensemble (not the African American vocal quintet of the 1950s and ’60s) – a string quintet with clarinet and piano. Four members are from the Vienna Philharmonic, one from the Berlin Philharmonic, with the addition of the two Jáno≈ka brothers Roman (second violin) and Franti≈ek (piano). They begin with a medley called K&K Rhapsody, a kind of ‘spot the tune from the Austro-Hungarian Empire’ (with the odd snatch of Verdi), and follow that with some wonderfully spirited Kreisler (a Marche miniature viennoise to match the gemütlich charm of the composer’s recordings), Brahms, Dinicu and Johann Strauss II. The acoustic is airy fin de siècle spa hotel.
Then it all goes a bit odd. The delightful French soprano Patricia Petibon sings ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story (why?) unconvincingly, three further Kreisler numbers are given the jazz treatment unpersuasively and Polish tenor Piotr Beczaπa sings Godard’s gentle Berceuse in an uncomfortably high tessitura. The Philharmonics end entertainingly with Enescu’s Rhapsodie roumaine and a flurry of those violinistic bird effects so beloved of gypsy fiddlers.
The booklet is a disgrace. If the original German ever made much sense, the translation is the verbal equivalent of that Morecambe and Wise gag: all the words but not necessarily in the right order. For example, we read that ‘The Philharmonics – this is lived musicality of the highest niveau…’ No one to correct this tosh who bothers is there?