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Neujahrskonzert 2016 (New Year’s Day Concert)
Vienna Boys’ Choir
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. 1 January 2016, Goldenersaal, Musikverein, Vienna. DDD
Reviewed as lossless download with pdf booklet from Qobuz (available in 16- and 24-bit formats and for streaming by subscribers).
SONY 88875 174772 [1:52:42]

If you were among the estimated 90 million listeners and viewers on New Year’s Day or were even there yourself and would like a memento of this year’s concert, one week after the event the CDs and download were available for purchase.  Even if you recorded the concert from radio or television, it’s better to have just the music without the commentary – helpful on the day but tedious with repetition.  If you want the DVD or blu-ray, these will be released at the end of January.

This was Mariss Jansons’ third appearance in the Golden Hall and it’s every bit as good as his earlier recordings – 2006 here2012 here.  He seeks to disabuse those who think that the Vienna Phil could play all this on auto-pilot, pointing out that he finds it as hard to prepare as anything that he conducts.  Not only does he guide them with evident sympathy for all the music, it’s evident from hearing the result that he is enjoying himself, even without seeing him receive a letter from a postman in Victorian garb and tooting an antique post-horn at the start of Mit Extrapost.

It would be invidious to make comparisons either with Jansons’ earlier appearances or with other recent New Year conductors other than to say that I enjoyed this as much as any recent year’s production but will always want to return to Willi Boskovsky’s many Decca recordings, a fair proportion of which remain available in various combinations, and to the classic concerts with Karajan (1987) and Carlos Kleiber (1989 and 1992) at the helm.  There are excerpts from the recordings by Karajan, Boskovsky and others on two super-budget-price collections Best of New Year’s Concert (E4748302, 2 CDs) and Best of New Year’s Concert II (4775115 – download only). 

Some of Boskovsky’s Vanguard recordings with his small-scale Boskovsky Ensemble – even more enjoyable than with the Vienna Phil, if anything – have been reissued on two super-budget Alto releases, ALC1227 –review – and ALC1237: Recording of the Month – review.  A few of his later recordings with the Johann Strauss Orchestra remain available on a super-budget Warner Gemini twofer (3815242 – review).  Boskosvky’s approach is different – more ‘authentic’ – with these smaller, dance-orientated groups than with the Vienna Phil.

Those who think that every year’s concert is the same forget the sheer quantity of music which the Strauss family composed between them and, as in previous years, there is music by their contemporaries too.  No Lanner this year, but music by Hellmesberger, Ziehrer and Waldteufel as well as Robert Stolz who kept the Viennese tradition alive until his death in 1975.  Stolz’s 1962 waltz celebrating the United Nations opens the proceedings and it’s one of six pieces receiving their first outing on New Year’s Day.  Additionally I believe that this is the only current recording of the Fürstin Nanette entr’acte: it doesn’t seem to be available even in the Marco Polo complete Strauss series.

I’m always pleased to see the music of Josef Strauss included: I share the belief that he was in many ways the most talented member of the family and his music often seems to take the listener beyond the ballroom.  In the case of Sphärenklänge (Music of the Spheres, track 9), his best-known work, he takes us to the Platonic realm where the heavenly bodies sing with a beauty that human ears cannot hear as Shakespeare tells us at the end of Merchant of Venice, in beautiful poetry which Vaughan Williams set in his Serenade to Music.

Josef could write persuasively on less exalted subjects, too: his Auf Ferienreisen (On Holiday, track 11) is as infectious as any of the travel music penned by his brother Johann II and Die Libelle (track 16) wonderfully evokes both a dragonfly skimming to and fro across the water and the kind of skittish young woman to whom the name was also applied.

Among the rarities this year were Ziehrer’s Weaner Mad’ln (Viennese Girls, track 5) waltz, complete with whistling orchestra and Johann senior’s Seufzer-galopp (track 15), accompanied by deep sighs from conductor and orchestra.  The high opus number of the Ziehrer reminds us that he too was a prolific dance and operetta composer: I was about to call for his music to be given more attention but I see that Preiser are doing just that, with a series of albums performed by the C.M. Ziehrer Orchester, formed in 2003 for that purpose and directed by Hans Schadenbauer.  Naxos also have a Best of Ziehrer CD (8.556848), drawn from a series of albums on the Marco Polo label, with the Slovak State PO and Razumovsky Sinfonia directed by Christian Pollack, Alfred Walter and Michael Dittrich.

With little or no copyright composers were free to ‘borrow’ so Émile Waldteufel, often known as ‘the French Strauss’ adapted Emmanuel Chabrier’s España; it sounds well in its waltz guise on track 13 where it receives a lilting performance.  Later, of course, the tune would be ‘borrowed’ again by Perry Como as the pop song ‘Hot diggity, dog ziggity’.

The recording quality is better than either the Radio 3 transmission or the BBC 4 evening repeat of the morning’s proceedings.  As in earlier years a few corners have been cut in putting out the recording so quickly.  The cut-and-paste cover was prepared ahead of the concert; the booklet offers no timings and doesn’t make clear how the almost two hours of the concert were divided across the two CDs, so I have been able to list only the overall length in the heading and had to rely on Qobuz for the times of the individual items.  The notes, however, are informative.

I urge those who think they have heard it all before at least to sample this year’s offering.  If, however, you haven’t yet obtained those classic Boskovsky, Karajan and Krauss recordings, they should be your first priority.

Brian Wilson

Details:

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]
Johann STRAUS II Eine Nacht in Venedig: Ouvertüre [8:09]
Eduard STRAUSS Außer Rand und Band, Polka schnell, Op.168 [2:08]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870) Sphärenklänge, Walzer, Op.235 [10:04]
Johann STRAUS II Sängerslust, Polka française, Op.328 [3:47]
Josef STRAUSS Auf Ferienreisen, Polka schnell, Op.133 [2:43]
Johann STRAUS II Fürstin Ninetta: Entr’acte Akt III [3:40]
Émil WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915) (after Emmanuel CHABRIER) España, Walzer, Op.236 [5:49]
Josef HELLMESBERGER I (1828-1893) Ballszene [5:05]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Seufzer-Galopp, Op.9 [2:11]
Josef STRAUSS Die Libelle, Polka Mazur, Op.204 [5:28]
Johann STRAUS II Kaiser-Walzer, Op.437 [11:32]
Auf der Jagd, Polka schnell, Op.373 [2:31]
Im Sturmschritt, Polka schnell, Op.348 [2:30]
Neujahrsgruß (New Year’s Address) [0:43]
Johann STRAUSS II An der schönen blauen Donau, Op.314 [10:31]
Johann STRAUSS I Radetzky-Marsch, Op.228 [3:47]

 




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