New Year’s Concert 2012 = Music by J. STRAUSS I, J. STRAUSS II, JOSEF STRAUSS, EDUARD STRAUSS, C.M. ZIEHRER, J. HELLMESBERGER II, H. LUMBYE, P. I. TCHAIKOVSKY – Vienna Philharmonic/ Mariss Jansons – Sony Classical 88691913772, (2 CDs), 43:00, 59:00 *****:
Conductor Mariss Jansons (b. 1943) assumes the mantle established in 1939 by Clemens Krauss, leading the Vienna Philharmonic in the joyous spirit of the New Year’s Concert in the Musikverein, Vienna, 2012. Along with perennial favorites by the Strauss family, Jansons extends the tradition set by such luminaries as Boskovsky, Krips, Muti, Maazel, and Kleiber, adding selected new repertory to enliven the proceedings.
The opening Vaterlaendlischer Marsch of Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss parodies the perennial Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228 of Johann Strauss I, as well as the Rakoczy March by Berlioz. The music eventually segues into Haydn’s famed “Emperor” Quartet melody until woodwinds, snare drum, and fleet strings carry us away. Johann Strauss II’s Rathaus-Ball-Taenze, Walzer, Op. 438, also new, pokes fun at Tales from the Vienna Woods and then establishes its own grand lilt of swaying gowns and waxed mustaches. Late in the dance, strains from the Emperor Waltz appear, along with the opening measures of The Blue Danube. The “novelty triptych” concludes with Johann Strauss II’s Entweder–Oder! Polka schnell, Op. 403, a witty zestful romp in patter figures and rousing thumps.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir joins the festivities for the sparkling Tristsch-Tratsch Polka, a buoyant jest always. Michael Ziehrer’s Viennese Citizens Waltzes, Op. 419 used to be a Knappertsbusch specialty, and its combination of pesant militant fervor and sweet lyricism combine in rustic nostalgia. The Albion Polka, Op. 102 by J. Strauss II blends winds and strings in a relatively gentle jaunt, colored by the lighter side of the VPO battery. The Josef Strauss Jokey Polka is an old Clemens Krauss staple, a crackling salute to our friends who jockey fine equines to victory. Joseph Hellmesberger II introduces an oriental element in his Danse diabolique, with more than a whirling whiff from Mozart’s Seraglio. Josef Strauss admits the French touch of the Left Bank in his Kuenstler-Gruss Polka, a greeting from and to artists. Like the preceding polka, Johann Strauss II’s Freuet euch des Lebens Walzer, Op. 340 pays homage to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, whose 200th anniversary this concert marked. Johann Strauss I’s Sperl Galop concludes the first disc, the hustling dance a rousing nod to the Danes.
Disc 2 offers another novelty to begin: Hans Christian Lumbye’s Copenhagener Eisenbahn-Dampf Galopp, complete with train whistles and chugging stream-engine effects, the perfect complement to the Eduard Strauss Bahn Frei! that Willi Boskovsky loved. The Feuerfest Polka of Josef Strauss, a long-time Krauss selection, here enjoys the Vienna Boys’ Choir complement, making us all fireproof. No Bahn Frei! but rather the Carmen-Quadrille by Eduard Strauss, a clever pastiche of Bizet’s vivid colors for toreadors of Viennese persuasion. The city of St. Petersburg suddenly becomes an inspirational factor in a series of pieces: Pizzicato Polka, Persian March, Brennende Liebe, and the new additions from Tchaikovsky, the sensuous Panorama and eternal Waltz from his Sleeping Beauty ballet. The silken discipline and buoyant clarity that mark the VPO’s execution of these alternately serene and lusty works warrants the price of admission. With the Delirium Walzer by Josef Strauss, we return to another Knappertsbusch vehicle, one that merges impulses from the Black Forest, Weber, and Freud. The VPO flute solo collaborates with a series of tremolo figures in strings, tympani and cymbal riffs to sing of Viennese enchantment. The intense energy having been renewed, it becomes safe to turn the formal end of the concert over to Johann Strauss II for two staples, the electric Unter Donner und Blitz Polka and the Tik-Tak Polka.
The audience has been thrilled, and Jansons invokes a short greeting with the orchestra before delivering his two encores, each a standard-bearer of New Year’s joy. It never fails that the opening strains of The Blue Danube convey all the seamless magic of the occasion, and Jansons plays his aristocratic, leisurely version for posterity. The blazing Radetzky March by Johann Strauss I absorbs the very applause into the musical mix, an alchemy that can best be appreciated by having purchased Sony’s DVD version of the concert. [There is also a video Blu-ray of the concert with lossless surround sound…Ed.]
Haydn Quartets, spanning two decades