2017 New Year’s Concert
Details after review
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Gustavo Dudamel
rec. live Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 1 January 2017. DDD
SONY 88985376152 [51:43 + 52:23]

Frühling in Wien (Springtime in Vienna)
Details after review
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck
rec. live Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 26-27 March 2016. DDD.

Frühling in Wien reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com.

I listened to Part 1 of this year’s New Year’s concert on Radio 3 and watched Part 2 on BBC2 with some apprehension, having edited Dan Morgan’s critical review of Gustavo Dudamel’s recording with the Vienna Philharmonic of the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures from an Exhibition. Wondering if any performance of that work could be so dire, I streamed it from Qobuz and it is woefully undercharged. For once I was left thinking that it was just as well that the Great Gate of Kiev never got built.

I don’t know what the VPO thought of it, but by the time that it was recorded in April 2016 they were committed to Dudamel conducting the New Year’s Day concert. In any case, as Dan remarks, their own playing was not up to their usual standard that day.

Very special years apart, such as most of the times when Willi Boskovsky directed with a very light touch or when Herbert von Karajan and Carlos Kleiber took charge of the proceedings, these concerts tend to be self-recommending but hardly special. I’m sure that’s largely because the orchestra have the music in their blood to such an extent that they could play it without a conductor. Certainly there seems to be an agreed Viennese tempo and style for the most common items such as the Blue Danube and Radetzky March which always conclude proceedings. Dances obviously recorded in the Summer seem to be in perfect accord with the playing on New Year’s Day – this year we even had a series of snippets from previous years, all perfectly synced with the performance.

There has been a good deal of correspondence on the MusicWeb Message Board about Dudamel’s flamboyant conducting style, which is why you may prefer to go for the CD or download rather than the DVD or blu-ray when they appear. The VPO wisely ignored all the gestures and got on with playing the music in their usual first-rate fashion. This was not one of those vintage years but it was worth conserving. I enjoyed the finished product all the more without the distraction of the announcements on radio and TV.

The recording is good but I must award black marks for the failure of the Sony booklet to state times of tracks or of each CD – not the first time that this has happened with a Sony New Year recording. They do get the concert out very quickly these days but that’s no excuse for slipshod presentation at full price.

Manfred Honeck and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on their in-house label have already recorded a programme of Strauss family music which earned the approval of Michael Cookson – review – though Dan Morgan was less impressed – DL News 2016/3. The VSO Easter Concert in the Golden Hall is now almost as much a Viennese tradition as the New Year’s concert from their more distinguished VPO rivals. This was recorded live over the Easter weekend in 2016, with applause at the end. The VSO have this music in their blood as much as the VPO and they offer a varied programme of the music of Austria, ending inevitably in Vienna. They open with Ziehrer’s Hereinspaziert! which also featured this year at New Year. At a few seconds longer than the VPO, they play well but their performance is a trifle four-square by comparison with the VPO and both yield to Willi Boskovsky’s final concert in 1979 (Decca Legends E4684892).

The VSO also perform Weana Mad’ln, which was included in the 2016 New Year concert. This time Honeck is a little faster than Mariss Jansons and, I think, catches the right accent. (Wean is how the Viennese pronounce the name of their city). Those wishing to explore Ziehrer’s music further are well served by four CDs on Marco Polo with a Naxos selection of highlights (8.556848 – review). The VSO programme has only one item by a member of the Strauss family but compensates with three tempting excerpts from the ballet Schlagobers by Richard Strauss. There’s only one current recording of the whole 50-minute Suite, from Neeme Järvi on Chandos (CHAN9606 – download only: available from Presto). It’s not as appealing as the waltz suite from Der Rosenkavalier but the VSO and Honeck make the excerpts here, especially the Finale, appealing.

The VSO album is rounded off with an attractive and lively performance of Eduard Strauss’s Wien über alles, apparently the only one currently available on record in any format. With idiomatic playing throughout and good recording, the whole programme makes a very worthwhile pendant to any of the New Year’s concerts. As I was closing this review Michael Cookson’s very appreciative review appeared.

Even so, I return to Willi Boskovsky as my ideal interpreter of this music. Even after his final concert he continued to record the music of the Strauss family and others for EMI, several volumes of which remain available from Warner at budget price, all very well worth having, albeit for download only. Better still are the earlier recordings which he made with his own Boskovsky Ensemble, a chamber-sized group similar to the one which the Strauss family would have directed. Substantial portions of these Vanguard recordings remain available from Alto (ALC1237: Recording of the Month – review – ALC1227 – review ). There’s a similar chamber-size recording mainly of the music of Johann SCHRAMMEL (1850-1893) another very attractive programme, from the Klassisches Wiener Schrammel-Quartett on an album entitled Wien bleibt Wien (Tudor 722, download only, available from Presto and eClassical ).

Two very worthwhile collections, then, but Willi Boskovsky is still the man from whom to get to know the music of the Strauss family and their contemporaries.

Fortuitously I was slow getting this review off,  allowing me to investigate another Vienna Symphony Orchestra recording of the music of Johann Strauss II, made by them with Yakov Kreizberg in 2004 and formerly available from Pentatone on SACD but now as a download only.  Dan Morgan has reviewed it as a download from NativeDSD – forthcoming – and I listened to a 24/96 download, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com as I was editing and converting Dan's review.  Very enjoyable it is, too, and very well recorded especially in 24-bit format.

Brian Wilson

Previous review (Honeck): Michael Cookson

Track details: New Year’s Concert

Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948) Wiener Frauen: Nechledil March* [2:42]
Émile WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915) Les Patineurs (The Skaters), Walzer, Op.183* [7:56]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) ’s gibt nur a Kaiserstadt, ‘s gibt nur a Wien (There’s only one imperial city, only one Vienna), Polka, Op.291 [3:53]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870) Winterlust (Winter Joy), Polka schnell, Op.121 [2:49]
Johann STRAUSS II Mephistos Höllenrufe (Mephistopheles’ cries from Hell), Walzer, Op.101 [8:01]
Eine Nacht in Venedig: So ängstlich sind wir nicht ! (We’re not too worried) Polka schnell, Op.413 [2:23]
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895) Pique Dame: Overture* [7:52]
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843-1922) Hereinspaziert ! (Come right in), Walzer, Op.518 [7:45]
Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849) Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor: Mondaufgang (Moonrise)* (with Wiener Singverein) [4:41]
Johann STRAUSS II Pepita-Polka, Op.138* [3:43]

Johann STRAUSS II Rotunde-Quadrille, Op.360* [5:11]
Die Extravaganten, Walzer, Op.205* [7:36]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Indianer Galopp (Red Indian Galop), Op.111 [2:26]
Josef STRAUSS Die Nasswalderin (The Girl from Nasswald), Polka Mazur, Op.267 [6:07]
Johann STRAUSS II Auf zum Tanze! (Get up and dance), Polka schnell, Op.436* [3:14]
Tausend und eine Nacht (A thousand and one Nights), Walzer, Op.346 [8:32]
Tik-Tak Polka, Polka schnell, Op.365 [2:42]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916) Mit Vergnügen (With Pleasure), Polka schnell, Op.228 [2:23 ]
Neujahrsgruß (New Year’s Address) [0:41]
Johann STRAUSS II An der schönen blauen Donau (The beautiful blue Danube), Walzer, Op.314 [9:59]
Radetzky-Marsch (Radetzky March), Op.228 [3:35]
* première performance at New Year’s Concert

Track details: Springtime
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843–1922)
Hereinspaziert ! (Come right in!), Waltz Op.518 [7:52]
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819–1895)
Overture to Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant) [10:04]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Symphony No. 6 in F, Op.68 ‘Pastoral’, III (Allegro: Merry Gathering of Country Folk) [5:19]
Max SCHÖNHERR (1903–1984)
Tänze aus Österreich (Dances from Austria) Op.25/5: Schleifer (Sliding Dance) [1:34]
No. 7 Die 7 Sprünge (The 7 Leaps) [2:22]
No. 8 Bauerngalopp (Peasant Gallop) [2:48]
Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Schlagobers (Whipped Cream, ballet) Op.70 TrV 243: 7 Tanz des Kaffees (Coffee Dance) [1:48]
Träumerei (Nocturne) [7:37]
Finale [4:53]
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (arr.: Max SCHÖNHERR)
Weana Mad’ln (Viennese Girls), Waltz Op.388 [9:51]
Praterfahrt anno 1880 (A Drive through the Prater in the Year 1880), Gallop Op.92a [3:07]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835–1916)
Wien über alles (Vienna above all), Quick Polka Op.172 [2:04]

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