- Sturm-Marsch Galopp, for orchestra
- Baumgartenallee-Polka, for orchestra
- Marienwalzer, for orchestra
- Nur mit Dir!, polka for orchestra, Op. 34
- Schlesische Lieder, for orchestra, Op. 20
- Catharina-Quadrille, for orchestra, Op. 24
- Die Fürstensteiner, waltz for orchestra, Op. 28
- Mit Bomben und Granaten, march for orchestra, Op. 37
- Winterflocken-Galopp, for orchestra, Op. 19
- Victoria Walzer, for orchestra
- Königspolonaise, for orchestra, Op. 26
- Die Provinzialen, waltz for orchestra
- Concerthaus Polka, for orchestra
- Schützenmarsch, for orchestra, Op. 13
It is the Strauss family that comes to mind when dance music of the middle nineteenth century is mentioned, but other continental cities had their composer/orchestra leaders who ruled their local scenes when it came to the waltz, polka, galopp, and numerous lesser dance crazes. The relevant figure for Berlin was Benjamin Bilse, largely ignored nowadays but successful enough in his own time to have controlled his own concert hall, known as the Bilse. The thoroughly enjoyable booklet notes for this release by Germany's CPO label quote Tchaikovsky's description of the place: "The large magnificent hall, in which one could smell bad cigars and food and in which women knitting stockings and men drinking beer passed the time, made a peculiar impression on me." His orchestra was well drilled, indeed; in fact, one of the two branches into which it split after a disagreement (the notes tell the whole story) evolved into what is now the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The somewhat militaristic strain in the music of various composers in this style is magnified with Bilse, who employs march-like fanfares even in polkas that have a lighter overall tone. His best-known hit was "Mit Bomben und Granaten" (track 8). But he was also a very seductive melodist, and many pieces have the sharp but carefully controlled contrast of rhythm and tune that makes Sousa's music so attractive. Hear the "Catharina Quadrille" (track 6), and you may be convinced that Arthur Sullivan knew Bilse's music; indeed, Bilse was popular enough in his own time that Sullivan might have found it hard to avoid. The weak point here is the plain playing of the West German Radio Orchestra of Cologne under Christian Simonis, which makes it hard to imagine the rock-concert-like audience reactions Bilse's music inspired in its day. But the group has nevertheless done a service by resurrecting this composer, whose output would seem to offer a rich source of selections for pops concerts and the like.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Benjamin Bilse: Waltzes; Marches; Polkas based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
I had never heard of this composer prior to purchasing this album. I was pleasantly surprised. The WDR broadcasters in Germany dug this man out of obscurity and presented his music with clean, lively performances. Benjamin Bilse's waltzes are reminiscent of the Strauss family and his marches, galops, and polkas are bright and cheerful. The CD's packaging is attractive and the linear notes provide detailed information about Bilse's life in the 1800s, although the notes sometimes suffer from the strains of translation. Overall, a great recording.