Daniel Barenboim New Year’s Concert 2014 = Music by the STRAUSS family; also HELLMESBERGER: Viellebchen Polka; R. STRAUSS: Mondscheinmusik aus Capriccio; LANNER: Die Romantiker Walzer; DELIBES: Pizzicati from Sylvia – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Daniel Barenboim – Sony Classical 8884 3015642 (2 CDs), 58:25, 54:10 (1/10/14) ****:

Daniel Barenboim (b. 1942) returned to the Vienna Philharmonic for the 2014 New Year’s Concert, one of the world’s longest-standing and most prestigious music events. In its history of more than 70 years – established by Clemens Krauss – many of the most famous conductors have taken the baton for this concert, and millions of people in some 80 countries have enjoyed live broadcasts on TV. The decision to invite Daniel Barenboim to conduct was made by the Vienna Philharmonic to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its collaboration with Barenboim, and in recognition not only of the conductor’s artistic standing but also of his courageous work towards reconciliation in the Middle East. Barenboim had led the 2009 New Year’s Day Concert.

On New Year’s Day, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra typically presents from Vienna’s Musikverein an entertaining and heart-warming program drawn mainly from the musical repertoire of the Strauss dynasty and their contemporaries. The proven formula blends well-known classics with premieres of “surprise” works that have never been performed before at the New Year´s Concerts. Of the latter, the Josef Strauss Palms of Peace Waltzes, Op. 207 made their debut, quite lovely. This beauty preceded another ‘first,” the lively Carolinen-Galopp, Op. 21a of Johann Strauss I.  Even the familiar Egyptian March of Johann Strauss II added a series of vocal “La La La La” Beethoven Fifth style! The second part began with an unfamiliar triptych: Hellmesberger’s Polka francaise, Op. 1, the Richard Strauss Moonlight Interlude from Capriccio, and the Josef Strauss Bouquet-Polka, Op. 188.  Neckerel (Teasing) by Josef Strauss made a delight short plum, along with the new Schabernack (“Prank”) Polka. Music by Leo Delibes had not been programmed before, so his famous “Pizzicati” from the ballet Sylvia flowed smoothly, for plucked strings and flute.

The last two works of the program proper, the Dynamiden Walzer of Josef Strauss and his Ohne Sorgen! added delights: the former, a tribute to “the secret powers of magnetism,” more than pointed to the Richard Strauss waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier; and the Without a Care Polka had the orchestra’s shouting a series of impish “Ha!” staccato at the audience. Then the encores: the Carriere-Polka, again by Josef Strauss; the farewell address whispered by Barenboim after the French horn suggested The Blue Danube; and then that staple, followed by shouts, claps, whistles and the Radetzky March of Johann Strauss pere. But many wonderful pieces intervened, from the Offenbach-laden Helenen-Quadrille of Eduard Strauss, to the Tales of the Vienna Woods, featuring zither player Prof. Wilfried Scharf, in place of my own treasured Anton Karas. Lovely, high-spirited stuff, of which many Viennese dreams are made.  Recommended for any desire for optimism. [It’s also available on video DVD & Blu-ray…Ed.]

—Gary Lemco