Zubin Mehta was returning to the podium for this,
his fifth New Year’s Day concert in Vienna, having previously conducted
in 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2008. I listened on Radio 3 on the day and
later watched the televised recording on BBC4. I knew that I would have
to purchase either the CDs or the blu-ray although I already have enough
music by the Strauss family and their contemporaries to last a lifetime.
The CDs and download appeared first, just eight days after the concert
– we used to have to wait till the following December for the LPs in
the days of Willi Boskovsky – but the DVD and blu-ray had not yet appeared
when I wrote this review. It’s nice to see the visual extras once but
the CDs will be enough for most.
Three works – marked with an asterisk in the listing at the end of the
review – were making their début at a New Year’s Day concert. Johann
(Freedom March) was particularly surprising.
I never realised that the arch-conservative who praised General Radetzky’s
part in suppressing Italian reunification with the famous March, played
as always at the end, had also kept one foot in the liberal camp.
As in recent years, the music of other contemporaries also featured
in the programme. The proceedings opened with Suppé’s Morning, Noon
Overture and the ‘Strauss of the North’, Lumbye, featured
with his Champagne Galop.
Good as the notes, by the first violinist
of the VPO, are, they don’t include the information which Petroc Trelawny
offered the viewers and listeners, that Lumbye had been waylaid en
to a reception at the British Embassy in Copenhagen and had
to make up a story about the champagne which had flowed, a story bolstered
by the composition of this piece. It’s every bit as attractive as the
music of the Strauss family.
The 2012 concert featured music by Lumbye, his best-known work the Copenhagen
Steam Railway Galop
, but the Strauss family were also interested
in this new invention which got them to concerts in far-flung places.
The best-known of the dances they wrote with railway themes is Eduard
Strauss’s Bahn frei!
; the 2015 concert includes a work that I
hadn’t encountered before: his fast polka Mit Dampf
of which there seem to be only two other recordings in the catalogue.
Also in recent years we have had more of the music of Josef Strauss
who I’m not alone in believing was the most talented member of the family.
If the two works by him here leave you wishing for more, there’s a Marco
Polo series devoted to his music – now download only, but there’s a
single-CD distillation from the series which is well worth your while
on Naxos 8.556846 – review
Almost certainly the Vienna Philharmonic could play everything in the
New Year’s Day concert without a conductor, but it’s equally true that
the rapport between players and conductor is very important and there
is clearly such a rapport between the VPO and Zubin Mehta. This may
not be quite as special as the Carlos Kleiber (1989 and 1992) and Herbert
von Karajan (1987) occasions and I still turn to them and to Willi Boskosvsky
– especially the recordings which he made for Vanguard with his own
ensemble – for that little extra, but it’s not far behind. It’s a shame
that Mehta didn’t follow the Boskovsky custom of ending Perpetuum
with his ‘Und so geht es immer weiter’, including that wonderful
. Mehta’s ‘Etcetera, etcetera’ doesn’t
quite do it.
Those Vanguard recordings were made by the kind of small ensemble which
would have played the music originally – though the VPO is slimmed down
for the occasion, with most players participating every other or every
third year, it’s still much larger than the original Strauss orchestra.
The Boskovsky Ensemble also set the music of the Strauss family in the
historical context of their predecessors and contemporaries, so their
reissue by Alto is most welcome: review
If you listened or watched you will probably need no advice from me
to obtain the recording in one form or another. If you missed it, you
should at least sample the concert, perhaps from Qobuz
That’s also where I obtained the download – at a special price of £7.99
for 16-bit CD-quality and £10.49 for 24-bit. I listened to the 16-bit
and it’s very good, so the CDs should be too.
A couple of small grumbles: I couldn’t easily give you the individual
times of the tracks because they are not listed in the booklet – I’d
rather have had the information than the lavish pictures of the Goldener
Saal. Nor could I give you individual times for each CD because they
are not listed either. Having downloaded the album from Qobuz in CD-quality
16-bit sound, I didn’t know where CD1 ends and CD2 begins – also not
listed in the booklet – and had to work all this out myself.
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895) Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend
(Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna) Overture [8:35]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) Märchen aus dem Orient
Walzer, Op.444 [7:58]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870) Wiener Leben,
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916) Wo man lacht und lebt
schnell, Op.108 [2:14]
Josef STRAUSS Dorfschwalben aus Österreich
, Walzer, Op.164
Johann STRAUSS II Vom Donaustrande
, Polka schnell, Op.356
[3:03]; Perpetuum mobile
, Op.257 [3:08]; Accelerationen
Walzer, Op.234 [9:21]; Elektro-magnetische
Polka, Op.110 [3:00]
Eduard STRAUSS Mit Dampf
, Polka schnell, Op.70 [2:25]
Johann STRAUSS II An der Elbe
, Walzer, Op.477* [9:35]
Hans-Christian LUMBYE (1810-1874) Champagner-Galopp
Johann STRAUSS II Studenten-Polka
, Op.263* [4:03]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Freiheits-Marsch
Johann STRAUSS II Annen-Polka
, Op.117 [4:28]; Wein,
Weib und Gesang
, Walzer, Op.333 [10:05]
Eduard STRAUSS Mit Chic
, Polka schnell, Op.221 [2:20]
Johann STRAUSS II Explosionen
-Polka, Op.43 [2:19]; Neujahrsgruß
(New Year’s Greetings) [0:30]
Johann STRAUSS II An der schönen blauen Donau
Johann STRAUSS I Radetzky-Marsch
, Op.228 [3:54]
* First performance at a Vienna New Year’s Day Concert