“2019 New Year’s Concert”  – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christian Thielemann – Sony

by | Sep 13, 2019 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“2019 New Year’s Concert” = Works by  ZIEHRER; JOSEF STRAUSS; HELLMESBERGER; JOHANN STRAUSS II; EDUARD STRAUSS; JOHANN STRAUSS I [Complete list of composition] – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christian Thielemann – Sony 19075902892 (2 CDs), 1 hr 49 min ****:

If you have ever seen this event on television or purchased one of the CDs that turns up almost immediately, then you know what to expect. Honestly, I have watched this thing about 30 years straight, have always enjoyed it, and in fact consider the usually very Straussian themes de facto about as good as Waltz King interpretation gets. Big names usually are on the podium (though I do wonder why Leonard Bernstein never appeared—did they ever ask, or did he not want to do it?) and even those whose appearances I consider the most ineffective (Maris Janssens, Seiji Ozawa, Gustavo Dudamel) are nevertheless serviceable. More often, when listening to Carlos Kleiber (the absolute best) or superbly surprising (Georges Pretre), the results can be transforming.

So how does Christian Thielemann, with a relationship with the VPO dating back to 2000, fare? Very well thank you. He is definitely in the plus column, maintaining standards of the absolute best, bearing a natural feel for the music and a communicative presence that immediately manifests itself. But most of all, it’s the program that attracts one to this release, six of the fourteen selections (including the ubiquitous encores) first performances at these events. Ever heard of Carl Michael Ziehrer? He opens the concert. Josef Hellmesberger II? He’s here twice, with one premiere. The other first plays are from the King himself, and his two brothers, Josef and Eduard.

Honestly, it is a very tricky ordeal when trying to balance the “greatest hits” dimension of this concert—which the audience demands—and trying to expand the repertory while still achieving the necessary celebratory and specifically Viennese aspect of this event. And I am not sure that Thielemann does so here—at least he skirts the boundaries of New Year’s propriety. But for one, like me, who listens and buys year end and year out, this particular concert came as fresh and enlightening without sacrificing too much Strauss II. You might think differently, if you are new to this whole thing. If that is the case, by all means buy one  of the older Kleiber recordings. But if you are a veteran, you have a lot to look forward to. But you already knew that.

Concert Pieces:
CARL MICHAEL ZIEHRER: Schönfeld March op. 422;
JOSEF STRAUSS: Transactions Waltz op. 184; The Ballerina op. 227; Music of the Spheres, waltz op. 235;
HELLMESBERGER: Elfin Dance; Entr’acte Waltz;
JOHANN STRAUSS II: Express, polka schnell op. 311; Pictures of the North Sea, waltz op. 390; Overture to the operetta The Gypsy Baron; Artists’ Life, waltz op. 316; The Bayadère, polka schnell op. 351; Eva Waltz from the opera Knight Pázmán; Csárdás from the opera Knight Pázmán; Egyptian March op. 335; In Praise of Women, polka mazur op. 310; Im Sturmschritt Polka schnell op. 348; An der schonen blauen Donau Waltzer op.314;
EDUARD STRAUSS: Post-Haste, polka schnell op. 259; Opera Soirée, polka française op. 162;
JOHANN STRAUSS I: Radetzky Marsch op. 228

—Steven Ritter





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