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“Vienna New Year’s Concert 2016”: Music by STOLZ, ZIEHRER, WALDTEUFEL, HELLMESBERGER and The STRAUSSES =- Vienna Philharmonic/ Jansons – Sony Classical

“Vienna New Year’s Concert 2016”: Music by STOLZ, ZIEHRER, WALDTEUFEL, HELLMESBERGER and The STRAUSSES – Vienna Philharmonic/ Mariss Jansons – Sony Classical 88875174802, 112 mins (2 CDs) (1/22/16) *****:

One of the best of the New Year’s Concert series.

This is one of the best in the long history of Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concerts, combining Mariss Jansons’ charismatic conducting, the Vienna Philharmonic’s sublime playing and the explosively live sound of the Philharmonic’s Goldener Saal des Wiener Musikvereins home. Meanwhile, the usual enterprising but still conservative program is highlighted by a staggering audiophile performance of Joseph Hellmesberger Sr.’s obscure but highly addicting Ballszene (Scene at the Ball).

The Hellmesbergers were members of another celebrated Viennese family – father Georg was the most popular Austrian violinist of his day and the first leader of the Vienna Philharmonic, and son Joseph Jr. conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. And while music by his son is regularly played, Hellmesberger Senior’s Ballszene (Ball Scene), based on a violin study by Joseph Mayseder and scored for strings, harps, timpani and triangle, has a whirling, deliriously chromatic main theme in the violins that’s like mainlining classical music, especially with Jansons and the VPO giving it a slightly offbeat, quirky, intoxicated feeling, yet breathtakingly precise at an impossible speed quality.

Then there are just the normally enchanting performances, of Josef Strauss’s Sphärenklänge (Harmony of the Spheres), an almost impossibly romantic treasure to begin with and given the full star treatment here, of the New Year’s concert’s longtime favorite Josef Strauss’s Die Libelle (The Dragonfly), all capped off by an Emperor Waltz so alive with anticipation that the Philharmonic itself can’t wait to get to the big popular moments and enjoy them along with the audience. Plus, as the last of three well-deserved encores, there’s a ridiculously thrilling Radetzky March that rivals anything on the Last Night of the Proms.

Ballszene is by far the most brilliant of the eight tracks (out of 22) that received their first performances at a Vienna New Year’s Concert 2016, the rest are an undistinguished lot, leading off with the first track, a March of the United Nations by Robert Stolz. Otherwise, the inevitable fast polkas and other dances are more driven and manic than usual, Strauss II’s Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train) comes with an annoying klaxon, and an improbably happy Sangerslust (Singer’s Delight) by II and a similarly innocuous Auf Ferienreisen (On Vacation) features the Vienna Boys Choir.

Track List:

Disc 1:

Stolz, Robert
1. UNO-Marsch, op. 1275, RSWV 811

Strauss II, Johann
2. Schatz-Walzer, Op. 418
3. Violetta, Polka française, Op. 404
4. Vergnügungszug, Polka schnell, Op. 281

Ziehrer, Carl Michael
5. Weaner Mad’ln, Walzer, Op. 388

Strauss, Eduard
6. Mit Extrapost, Op. 259

Strauss II, Johann
7. Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice): Overture

Strauss, Eduard
8. Ausser Rand und Band, Op. 168bis

Strauss, Josef
9. Sphärenklange, Op. 235

Strauss II, Johann / Weyl, Josef
10. Sangerslust, Op. 328 (arr. H. Urbanek for choir)

Strauss, Josef
11. Auf Ferienreisen, Op. 133 (arr. for choir and orchestra)

Strauss II, Johann
12. Furstin Ninetta: Entr’acte

Disc 2

Waldteufel, Emile
1. Espana, Op. 236

Hellmesberger, Sr., Joseph
2. Ballszene

Strauss I, Johann
3. Seufzer-Galopp, Op. 900

Strauss, Josef
4. Die Libelle, Op. 204

Strauss II, Johann
5. Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz), Op. 437
6. Auf der Jagd, Op. 373
7. Im Sturmschritt!, Op. 348

8. Neujahrsgruss (New Year’s Address)

Strauss II, Johann
9. An der schonen, blauen Donau (The Beautiful Blue Danube), Waltz, Op. 314

Strauss I, Johann
10. Radetzky March, Op. 228

—Laurence Vittes

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