. . . the music is conducted with supreme elegance by Riccardo Muti . . . Performance: Deliciously enjoyable Recording: Imaginative visual direction
Record Review /
Hi-Fi News (London) / 01. September 2004
Die Neujahrskonzert-CD des italienischen Maestros und der Wiener Philharmoniker liegt auf Platz 1 der Österreich-Charts . . . ein enormes Vergnügen . . . Muti wirkt, auch beim "Nachhören" auf der CD, so entspannt wie schon lange nicht und hält die Musiker demonstrativ an der langen Leine, ohne seine persönliche Hand hinterm Strauß- und Lanner-Berg zu verstecken . . . Jeder Dirigent hat seinen eigenen Zugang zu Strauß. Und wenn die Musiker ihn mögen, spielen sie nicht nur so, wie der Dirigent es will, sondern als begegneten sie dieser Musik zum ersten Mal. Und das kann man heutzutage nach einer Woche auf CD und nach drei Wochen auf DVD nachprüfen.
Record Review /
Bühne (Wien) / 01. February 2004
The 2004 Vienna New Year's Concert on Deutsche Grammophon
Hamburg - Deutsche Grammophon will once again be partnering the Wiener Philharmoniker and the ORF (Austrian Radio and Television) for the live recording of the 2004 New Year's Concert, which will be available not only on CD but on DVD video as well. Riccardo Muti, a seasoned veteran of this happy occasion, will be on the Philharmonic podium for his fourth New Year's Concert. With an eye to 2004 as marking the elder Johann Strauss's 200th birthday, the programme will bear the designation "Johann Strauss the Father and His Sons" and present a lively compilation of works from both generations. Deutsche Grammophon's history of issuing the Vienna New Year's Day concerts dates back more than 20 years, and 2003 has already seen the company's release of a collection, "Best of New Year's Concert" (2-CD 474 830-2), featuring great musical moments from the past with conductors including Abbado, Boskovsky, Karajan, Krauss, and Maazel.
For the recording industry to set down and release this occasion on disc always represents a particular challenge. In 2003 Deutsche Grammophon succeeded in supplying dealers worldwide with its live recording of the New Year's Concert directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt just one week after it took place. And soon after that a record was broken in spectacular fashion by the Austrian market: for the first time a classical CD went "triple platinum", with sales of more than 90,000 copies - barely three weeks after its release. Also growing by leaps and bounds is the worldwide audience for the TV broadcast, which brought what is probably the greatest of all classical events into the homes of 52.7 million viewers in 2003, a full 4.4 million more than the previous year. For 2004 the international release of the live New Year's Concert recording is planned by Deutsche Grammophon for Wednesday, 7 January.
The last New Year's Concert launched a year of fruitful and successful collaboration between the Yellow Label and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Appearing in March 2003 was their live recording of Mahler's Third Symphony under Pierre Boulez (also on SACD); that same month Anna Netrebko, shooting star of the opera world, recorded her début album with Gianandrea Noseda conducting (release on CD and SACD: September 2003). Myung-Whun Chung's Vienna recording of the two Dvorák Serenades reached the shops in April. In June Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Quasthoff, and Violeta Urmana came together in Vienna with Pierre Boulez to continue the conductor's Mahler cycle; the programme consisted of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert Lieder, andKindertotenlieder. Christian Thielemann's success story with Vienna's elite ensemble also carries on: in August their recording of Strauss's Heldenleben was released; and in the same month Gilbert Kaplan's Mahler Second appeared on CD and SACD. This year's series of projects concluded in September with Anne-Sophie Mutter and a live recording, conducted by André Previn, of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, 122 years after its notorious world première in the Austrian capital.
Thoughts on the Wiener Philharmoniker's 2004 New Year's Concert
It was on 31 December 1939 that the Wiener Philharmoniker gave its first all-Strauss concert to celebrate the new year. If we take this date as marking the first of the orchestra's New Year's Concerts, then Deutsche Grammophon's new live recording will be documenting the 65th such concert. The more fastidious historians might object that the first actual New Year's Day Concert took place on 1 January 1941, but, recalling the spirit from which these concerts sprang, it is hard to ignore the one that took place on New Year's Eve 1939. Between 1929 and 1933 Clemens Krauss had already conducted concerts at the Salzburg Festival made up entirely of works by the Strauss family. The idea of continuing these concerts in Vienna not only made logical sense from an artistic point of view, but the decision to hold an all-Strauss concert to mark the new year was also a subtle profession of faith in Austria, which had recently disappeared from the map. This is confirmed by a prominent eyewitness, Professor Franz Mailer, the president of the Vienna Johann Strauss Society and, as a leading expert on Strauss, largely responsible for the programmes of the New Year's Concerts over recent decades. He attended the 1939 New Year's Eve Concert as a 19-year-old youth and saw how the atmosphere in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, from the outset an essential part of these concerts, expressed the audience's sense of national consciousness.
The 2004 concert will mark Riccardo Muti's fourth appearance at a New Year's Concert, following previous appearances in 1993, 1997 and 2000. He has now been closely associated with the Wiener Philharmoniker for more than three decades. Conductor and orchestra first worked together on a production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the 1971 Salzburg Festival, after which the relationship rapidly deepened: in 1972 Muti conducted a concert with the Philharmonic in Salzburg, and in 1975 he made his début at one of its subscription concerts, before travelling with the players to Japan. We can now look back on a long series of concerts, tours, opera performances and recordings. Of the many milestones on our journey together, mention must be made of our 1989 performance of the Mozart Requiem in Salzburg Cathedral in memory of Herbert von Karajan, the memorial for Leonard Bernstein in 1990, the gala concerts held to mark the sesquicentenary of the Wiener Philharmoniker in 1992, the concerts celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Musikverein in 1995 and the 850th anniversary of the inauguration of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna in 1997, three week-long festivals of performances by the orchestra in Japan and New York in 1998 and 1999, performances of Mozart's Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro in Ravenna in 1996, 1999 and 2002 and a performance of Bach's Mass in Bminor given in the Vatican in 2000 in the presence of Pope John Paul II.
The motto of the 2004 New Year's Concert is "Johann Strauss the Father and his Sons" and is intended by Professor Mailer to mark the 200th anniversary of the elder Johann Strauss's birth on 14 March 1804. The son of an innkeeper, Franz Strauss, and his wife, Barbara, Johann was still a child when the tavern musicians employed by his father inspired him to take up the violin. While studying bookbinding, he joined the orchestra of Michael Pamer (1782-1827), where he was introduced to Joseph Lanner (1801-1843). Not long afterwards, he joined Lanner's trio, which now became a quartet. When Lanner further enlarged his ensemble, Strauss acted as assistant conductor, before forming his own orchestra in 1825, the year in which he married an innkeeper's daughter, Anna Streim. There were five children by this marriage: three sons, Johann, Josef and Eduard, and two daughters, Anna and Theresia. The enormous success that he enjoyed in his native Vienna encouraged him to take his orchestra on tour. Following his début in Budapest in 1833, he made guest appearances in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Scotland, Ireland and Paris, where his admirers included Adolphe Adam, Daniel-François Auber and Nicolò Paganini and where Berlioz devoted an enthusiastic article to him in the Journal des débats. He succumbed to scarlet fever on 25 September 1849 and, accompanied by a great demonstration of grief on the part of the Viennese, was buried beside Joseph Lanner in Vienna's Döbling Cemetery. In 1904 his remains were transferred to a mausoleum in the city's Central Cemetery, and in 1905 a statue was erected to him and Lanner in the park outside the Town Hall.
Among the best known of his 250 or so works are the waltz Loreley-Rhein-Klänge, the Sperl Galop, the Seufzer (Sighing) Galop and the Anna Polka, but all of these are eclipsed in popularity by his Radetzky March, one of the greatest hits of all time. Yet there is something almost tragic about the fact that the elder Strauss is now identified almost exclusively with a single march. Even though he yields to his son in terms of universal acclaim, it should not be forgotten that together with Lanner he had a decisive influence on the form of the waltz and on our musical perception of it. When we recall that Johann Strauss the Younger described his father as a "musician by the grace of God", that Wagner saw in him the "daemon of the popular Viennese musical spirit" and that men of genius such as Berlioz and Paganini admired him, we shall have a clearer picture of his musical and historical importance than is afforded by the current fortunes of his works.
The 2004 New Year's Concert will open with a Philharmonic première, not least because its title reflects that of the entire programme: "Es war so wunderschön" (It was so lovely) from the younger Johann Strauss's operetta Der Waldmeister. This first part of the concert is being devoted to the founders of the Viennese waltz, Johann Strauss the Elder and Joseph Lanner, who were friends as much as rivals, and it will include three more works that have not previously been heard within the framework of a New Year's Concert: the Philomela Waltz, the Frederica Polka and the Tarantella Galop. The second part is dominated by the sons Johann (1825-1899), Josef (1827-1870) and Eduard (1835-1916). Among the works by the "waltz king" Johann Strauss the Younger are two Philharmonic novelties: the Satanella Polka and the Zigeunerin (Gypsy)Quadrille. The second of these pieces is based on motifs from The Bohemian Girl by Michael Balfe (1808-1870), the Irish composer whose opera Les quatre fils Aymon had already proved a sensational success in Vienna, inspiring a duel between the two generations, with father and eldest son each writing a quadrille within a matter of days. A clear victor emerged from this contest, which allowed a direct comparison to be drawn between the two composers: it was the "waltz king" Johann Strauss the Son. There is in fact a topical reason for including this quadrille in this year's New Year's Concert - the first time it has been performed on this occasion - inasmuch as the Republic of Ireland takes over the presidency of the European Union on 1 January 2004. The performance of Josef Strauss's Skating Polka is likewise inspired by external events, in this case the fact that the European Year of Education through Sport begins on 1 January 2004. Josef Strauss will be represented at the 2004 New Year's Concert with his delightful Stiefmütterchen(Pansies) polka mazurka, another work that has not previously been heard at a Philharmonic concert. Also included in the CD release will be two traditional encores, the Blue Danube Waltz and the Radetzky March, together with a further homage to the founder of the Strauss dynasty, his Indian Galop - this, too, a première at the Wiener Philharmoniker's New Year's Concert on 1 January 2004. Clemens Hellsberg Chairman of the Wiener Philharmoniker