In his fifth year of leading the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concerts, Riccardo Muti adds six new items to the sparkling elixir of musical champagne.
Vienna Philharmonic 2018 New Year’s Concert = Marches, Dances, and Concert Pieces by JOHANN STRAUSS II; JOHANN STRAUSS I; JOSEF STRAUSS: ; SUPPE; CZIBULKA – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Riccardo Muti – Sony 88985477002 (2 CDs) 56:00; 60:00 (1/26/18) ****:
[Complete list of pieces follows below]
An ardent collector of the recorded Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concerts since 1951—led by Clemens Krauss—I have followed the progression of the stellar conductors who have inaugurated Vienna’s New Year with the graceful and often scintillating melodies and rhythms of the Strauss family and their worthy colleagues. Riccardo Muti leads this year’s jubilant concert, offering six new items to an already illustrious gathering of waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and marches. Muti’s affinity for the Viennese lilt comes across with lush authenticity, especially in the perennial 1868 Tales from the Vienna Woods and the equally hypnotic 1880 Roses from the South, but no less so in a marvelous novelty, the 1881 Myrthenblueten of Johann Strauss II, meant to celebrate Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and Princess Stephanie of Belgium, whose tragic story became the subject of the several film versions of Mayerling.
The various marches each projects a direct nobility and pomp requisite to the occasion, opening with Entrance March from Der Zigeunerbaron. Lesser known, the 1893 Festmarsch celebrates the wedding of Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma. For an unusual—though brief—romp, try Johann Strauss Senior’s 1829 William Tell Galopp, which provides only the “Lone Ranger” finale of the Rossini overture, amended with sixteen new measures. Meanwhile, the Johann Strauss II Quadrille on themes from Verdi’s A Masked Ball (1862) has a courtly energy and natural Italian buoyancy. The gifted Franz von Suppe (1819-1895) finds his infectious Boccaccio Overture (1879) in its debut at these concerts. Alfons Czibulka (1842-1893), a military bandmaster whose work had been unfamiliar, likewise pays homage to Crown Prince Rudolf in his charming Stephanie-Gavotte. Not to forget the talented Josef Strauss (1827-1870), we have a rarity, Wiener Fresken, an effective reminder that Josef had a talent for painting as well as music.
Riccardo Muti, by Terry Linke
Throughout the evening, the marvelous VPO strings, trumpet work, zither, harp, flute, cymbals, and snare drum have made the musical effects live in vibrant Technicolor. Muti leans into the five waltzes that comprise Tales from the Vienna Woods with that slick finesse we know from veterans Krauss, Knappertsbusch, and Kleiber. The crisp attacks in the polkas Leichtes Blut and Eingesendet – the formal end of the concert—literally ricochet with simmering energy. Muti’s first encore, Unter Donner und Blitz, explodes with nothing less than circus pageantry. He then—accompanied by trembling strings of the Danube waltz – makes the obligatory address to the Viennese, then to segue into a full account of the eternal On the Beautiful, Blue Danube. We must recall that Brahms wrote the opening notes on a card, if only to lament that these tones were not his! Muti slows the tempo just to squeeze every intimate, sentimental drop from its rich textures. With the rousing Radetzky March of Johann Strauss, Senior, whose infectious gait immediately invites the clapping and stomping that perpetually warm the cockles of our admiration.
JOHANN STRAUSS II:
Einzugsmarsch from The Gypsy Baron
Brautschau Polka, Op. 417
Leichtes Blut Polka, Op. 319
Myrthenblueten Waltzes, Op. 395
Freikugeln Polka, Op. 326
Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald, Op. 315
Festmarsch, Op. 452
Stadt und Land Polka, Op. 322
Un ballo in maschera Quadrille, Op. 272
Rosen aus dem Sieden, Op. 388
Unter Donner und Blitz, Op. 324
An der schoenen blauen Donau, Op. 314
JOHANN STRAUSS I:
Marienwalzer, Op. 212
Wilhelm Tell Galopp, Op. 29b
Radetzky Marsch, Op. 228
Wiener Fresken, Op. 249
Eingesendet Polka, Op. 240
SUPPE: Boccaccio Overture
CZIBULKA: Stephanie-Gavotte, Op. 312