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Neujahrskonzert 2006
CD 1: Part I
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Auf's Korn! Bundesschützenmarsch op. 478 [2.33] *; Frühlingsstimmen Walzer op. 410 [6.24]; Diplomaten Polka française op. 448 [4.11]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)
Eingesendet Polka schnell op. 240 [1.59]
Lob der Frauen Polka mazurka op. 315 [4.24]; Künstler-Leben Walzer op. 316 [8.43]
Ohne Sorgen! Polka schnell op. 271 [1.54]
Part II
Der Zigeunerbaron, Einzugsmarsch [3.10]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Hochzeit des Figaro, Overture [4.26] *
Joseph LANNER (1801-1843)
Die Mozartisten Walzer op. 196 [9.38] *
CD 2:
Liebesbotschaft Galopp o. op. [2.43] *; Neue Pizzicato-Polka op. 449 [3.41]; Künstler-Quadrille op. 201 [5.26] *; Spanischer Marsch op. 433 [5.05]; Du und Du Walzer (after themes from Die Fledermaus) op. 367 [7.22]; Im Krapfenwald'l Polka française op. 336 [4.13]; Furioso-Polka Polka quasi Galopp op. 260 [2.23]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916) / Arr.: Michael ROT
Telephon Polka française op. 165 [3.48] *
Lagunen-Walzer op. 411 [8.15]; Éljen á Magyar! Polka schnell op. 332 [2.43]
Banditen-Galopp op. 378 [2.33]
Mariss Jansons' New Year's Address [1.30]
An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer op. 314 [9.25]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849)
Radetzky-Marsch op. 228 [3.49]
Wiener Philharmoniker/Mariss Jansons
* = first performance in a New Year concert
rec. live, Musikverein, Grosser Saal, Wien. 1 January 2006. DDD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 5566 [47.24 + 62.59]



If there is one musical event that comes around with unfailing annual inevitability it is the Wiener Philharmonker's Neujahrskonzert. I dutifully tuned in on New Year's Day out of habit, musical compulsion and the desire to catch Mariss Jansons in action once again. As a live concert I enjoyed it, but - almost inevitably - upon revisiting it some items fare better than others for repeated hearings.

All the expected critical phrases can be applied to the playing: technical polish, velvet-like ease of playing in the strings, wonderfully weighted and phrased performances. One might think that this concert showed the Vienna Philharmonic on autopilot as well as their natural compositional territory. Well, I don’t get a sense of players on autopilot here. Watching the live concert relay it was noticeable how many players were watching Jansons, which serves to show that he is a conductor that always leaves something in reserve for the concert itself. So many times I have heard players say that even after they’ve rehearsed with him, they are never quite sure of what will happen on the night. The finely paced and voiced readings set this apart from most other Vienna Philharmonic New Year concerts, with the possible exception of Carlos Kleiber, who – like Jansons – brings something uniquely special to the party.

The Viennese sweetmeats presented here are no strangers to Jansons: he describes them as ‘music that speaks through my mind and soul and body’. Indeed the association between conductor and music goes back to his father Arvid, who often conducted this repertoire. If today Mariss’s enviable reputation rests on interpretations of altogether heavier repertoire - Shostakovich, Mahler, Bruckner, etc - he demonstrates here that lighter pieces are every bit as deserving of his probing interpretative approach.

The performances fizz along - one glass of champagne after another; as well they might, given that the occasion is optimistic and the precursor to the consumption of great quantities of champagne by the VIPs lucky enough to attend in person. Their involvement too is for the most part restrained - except where tradition dictates otherwise – applause is minimised – and only once or twice did it disrupt the mood generated by Jansons and the VPO.

The opportunity to kick off the Mozart celebratory year was not missed, and Jansons turns in a sensitively phrased Figaro overture, though why it does not appear at the start of Part II is a mystery. The item that follows, Lanner’s Die Mozartisten Walzer, I suspect will either be taken by listeners as musical sacrilege or just schmaltz. However, on its own terms it is decently performed – and finds a kindred pair, one might say, in Johann Strauss II’s Künstler-Quadrille which also takes off where many another composer stops.

My only serious criticism is one that holds if one were to listen to these discs straight through with any frequency. Disc 2 starts with seven pieces that are from Johann II’s pen, and with a further eleven elsewhere, other composers get rather marginalised even though they have good things to offer. However, there is variety in the musical forms represented, and this goes some way to balancing the equation.

In Deutsche Grammophon’s rush to release the discs some nine days after the concert some corners were cut – no track timings are provided, for example – but the booklet does contain glossy pictures of the maestro and orchestra caught during rehearsal. More than can often be said of live recordings, a sense of occasion is palpable. I enjoyed the sense of fun Jansons brings to it all, though anyone planning on taking a mobile into his concerts would do well not to follow Jansons’ own example in Eduard Strauss’ Telephon Polka. A thinly disguised comment to concert audiences everywhere, given the near global reach of this concert?

With traditions duly observed and the playing captured with faithful fizz sonority, Jansons’ first Neujahrskonzert proves an uplifting tonic on cold winter nights.

Evan Dickerson





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