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Neujahrskonzert 2016
Vienna Boy’s Choir
Vienna Philharmonic/Mariss Jansons
rec. 1 January 2016, Goldenersaal, Musikverein, Vienna
No sung texts
SONY CLASSICS 88875 174772 [62.27 + 50.13]

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016 this is the New Year’s Concert recorded live from the Goldenersaal of the Musikverein, Vienna. Latvian Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic (VPO) his third appearance at this legendary event. His first New Year’s Concert in 2006 and then in 2012 were warmly welcomed. No stranger to the VPO Jansons conducted them for the first time in 1992. In the best tradition of the New Year’s Concert Jansons presides over a festive mix of much-loved showpieces and unknown gems. This 2016 programme comprises 21 scores from eight composers, eight of whom receive their New Year’s première and three of those are from the pen of Johann Strauss II.

Together with some 50 million others across 90 countries I watched the live television transmission. It's a wonderfully civilised part of New Year’s Day morning and has become a tradition in my own and many other households. It was uplifting to watch the personable Jansons bringing his particular insights to this joyous music.

Once again the television broadcast shows many shots of the sumptuous interior of the Goldenersaal as usual copiously garlanded with sprays of flowers. The effect is striking. This year the roving television camera kept a frequent watch on Mrs Jansons; a change of target from previous years where keen surveillance was kept on Dame Julie Andrews.

Sadly, in recent decades some conductors have not had the necessary charisma to carry off this extraordinarily special occasion. I admit to enjoying especially past concerts by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons and Daniel Barenboim whose conducting seems to generate a special frisson. Curiously this year Jansons’ direction seemed to be slightly lacking in his usual zip and buoyancy. He failed fully to recreate the atmosphere of unbridled joy and enchantment of mid 19th century Vienna.
First a debut work for the New Year’s Concert by the Austrian Robert Stolz. Dedicated to the United Nations his UNO-Marsch from 1962 felt like a John Philip Sousa march in a sweet-toothed André Rieu arrangement. It was a disappointment and not up the quality of the Strauss family. More successful on its concert debut is Émile Waldteufel’s España waltz from 1886. This fresh and exhilarating piece is an arrangement of the famous rhapsody for orchestra España that Chabrier had written a couple of years earlier. Ziehrer’s waltz Weaner Mad’ln, another debutante, is an over-sentimental score with its whistling sequence reminiscent of mischievous wolf-whistles directed at fashionable Vienna girls. Another agreeable newcomer is Josef Hellmesberger’s Ball Scene - one of the composer’s better known works after a violin study by Joseph Mayseder. It was heard here in an arrangement by Wolfgang Dörner.

Of the New Year’s Concert debutantes from the Strauss family there are a couple that I found especially memorable. First Johann Strauss II with Violetta, an uplifting French polka and Außer Rand und Band, a heartening fast polka by Eduard Strauss. My highlight is the Johann Strauss II overture Eine Nacht in Venedig which with its adroit changes of mood and tempo is both inspiring and celebratory. Maintaining its usual high standards is the Vienna Boy’s Choir featured on two of the first half's works: Sängerslust by Johann Strauss II and Auf Ferienreisen from Josef Strauss.

For some reason the usual authoritative essay in the CD booklet written by Prof. Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, the first violin of the Vienna Philharmonic, is absent. It is replaced by a most helpful article by researchers Silvia Kargl and Friedemann Pestel. Curiously again the track timings are absent. Praise is due to the engineers for Sony who provide its usual clarity and well balanced sound.

Despite my slight reservations concerning Jansons the orchestra continue to lavish utmost care and attention on these uplifting and popular works; testimony to its unerring spirit. There should be fireworks next year with exciting Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel taking the baton.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Brian Wilson

CD 1 [62.27]
Robert STOLZ (1880-1975)
UNO-Marsch* [3:28]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Schatz-Walzer, Op. 418 [8:06]
Violetta, Polka française, Op. 404* [4:29]
Vergnügungszug, Polka schnell, Op. 281 [3:01]
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843-1922)
Weaner Mad’ln, Walzer, Op. 388* [10:27]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916)
Mit Extrapost, Polka schnell, Op. 259 [2:20]
Eine Nacht in Venedig: Ouvertüre [8:09]
Außer Rand und Band, Polka schnell, Op. 168* [2:08]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)
Sphärenklänge, Walzer, Op. 235 [10:04]
Sängerslust, Polka française, Op. 328* [3:47]
Auf Ferienreisen, Polka schnell, Op. 133 [2:43]
Fürstin Ninetta: Entr’acte Akt III* [3:40]

CD 2 [50.13]
Émile WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915) (after Emmanuel CHABRIER)
España, Walzer, Op. 236* [5:49]
Josef HELLMESBERGER I (1828-1893)
Ballszene* [5:05]
(after a violin study by Joseph Mayseder arranged by Wolfgang Dörner [5:05]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Seufzer-Galopp, Op. 9 [2:11]
Die Libelle, Polka Mazur, Op.204 [5:28]
Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437 [11:32]
Auf der Jagd, Polka schnell,
arranged from operetta Cagliostro in Wein, Op.373 [2:31]
Im Sturmschritt, Polka schnell, Op. 348 [2:30]
Neujahrsgruß (New Year’s Address) [0:43]
An der schönen blauen Donau, Op.314 [10:31]
Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228 [3:47]

First performance at a Vienna New Year’s Concert*



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