Claudio Abbado & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – New Year´s Concert In Vienna (1991)

FrontCover1.jpgHere´s the history of this classic event on the first day of a year:

The first New Year’s Concert took place during the darkest chapter of the history of Austria and that of the Vienna Philharmonic. In the midst of barbarism, dictatorship and war, at a time of constant worry regarding the lives of members and their families, the Philharmonic sent an ambivalent signal: the net income from a concert dedicated to compositions by the Strauss dynasty which was performed on December 31, 1939, was donated entirely to the national-socialistic fund-raising campaign “Kriegswinterhilfswerk”. On January 1, 1941, a Philharmonic matinee entitled “Johann Strauss Concert” was performed. Taking place in the middle of the war, many regarded this as an expression of Viennese individuality, but it was also misappropriated for the national-socialistic propaganda of the “Großdeutscher Rundfunk”. Clemens Krauss conducted these concerts until the end of the war. In the years 1946 and 1947, Josef Krips (1902-1974) replaced Krauss, who returned in 1948 after the expiration of his two year conducting ban which had been imposed by the allies, and who conducted seven more New Year’s Concerts until 1954.

Clemens Kraus

The international popularity of the New Year’s Concert may create the impression that the orchestra’s performance of the music of the Strauss dynasty extends back to Johann Strauss, Sr., und therefore to the beginning of the orchestra’s history. In fact, however, for an extended period of time, the Philharmonic generally ignored the most “Viennese” music ever written. Probably the musicians did not wish to jeopardize the social advancement they had experienced upon the introduction of the Philharmonic concerts by associating themselves with “popular music”. This attitude toward the Strauss dynasty changed only gradually. One determining factor for this reassessment was that the members of this unique family of composers enjoyed the highest respect among major composers such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms. In addition, the Philharmonic musicians themselves had several direct encounters with Johann Strauss, Jr., which provided them the opportunity to observe the significance of this music and experience first-hand the charismatic personality of its creator, which had enraptured all of Europe. (by http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at)

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And here´s the New Year´s Concert from 1991, conducted by Claudio Abbado (the second and last time).

The regularity of the Vienna New Year’s Day Concert is almost matched these days by the regularity of the appearance of the CD recording some five or six weeks later. This year, mindful of the year’s major musical obsession, the programme departs from convention by including some Mozart dances, notably the captivating Schliitenfahrt (“Sleigh ride”). Schubert gets a look in, too, though I’m not convinced that Bruno Maderna’s modernistic touches in the first of the D735 Ecossaises are really in keeping with the occasion. Give me the delightful version by the Willi Boskovsky Ensemble (Vanguard/Pinnacle (0 VCD72016, 9/90) any time!

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For the rest, there is a commendable quota of less hackneyed but highly attractive items, with contributions from all four major members of the Strauss family and Joseph Lanner. The presentation of the two themes heard in counterpoint towards the end of Johann’s Waldmeisler Overture is hauntingly done, and the waltzes by Lanner and Josef Strauss are among their respective composers’ best. The one major curiosity is the Carmen-Quadrille, arranged by Eduard Strauss on themes from Bizet’s opera. Abbado tried something similar a couple of years ago, with Johann’s Quadrille on Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, but I don’t think he really succeeds any more now than then in making the result sound convincing as a dance.

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Generally Abbado’s performances are lively and free from conventional mannerisms, if also slightly free with the rhythms and dynamics. The recorded sound is a shade raw, especially in so far as the percussion is rather prominent at times, but no doubt that is considered an appropriate representation of the occasion. I’ve been spoilt recently by hearing the reissue of Carlos Kleiber’s 1989 concert, which I’d recommend to anyone wanting a single New Year Concert. But those who enjoy hearing An derschOnen, blauen Donau and the Radetzky-Marsch year after year will need no encouragement to obtain this latest offering. (by Gramophone, 4/1991)

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Personnel:
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado

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Tracklist:
01. Waldmeister Ouverture (Johann Strauss) 9.26
02. Kontretranz Kv 609 No. 1 (Mozart) 0.57
03. Kontetranz Kv 609 No. 3 (Mozart) 1.18
04. Deutscher Tanz (Mozart) 2.40
05. Die tanzende Muse (Josef Strauss) 4.05
06. Polka (Schubert) 1.39
07. Galopp (Schubert) 1.33
08. Die Werber (Lanner) 7.20
09. Seufzer-Galopp (Johann Strauss) 1.51
10. Aquarellen (Josef Strauss) 7.51
11. Freikugeln (Johann Strauss) 2.29
12. Carmen-Quadrille (Eduard Strauss) 4.58
13. Kaiser-Walzer (Johann Strauss) 10.43
14. Furioso- Polka (Johann Strauss) 2.15
15. Stürmisch in Lieb’ und Tanz (Johann Strauss) 2.09
16. An der schönen, blauen Donau (Johann Strauss) 9.29
17. Radetzsky-Marsch (Johann Strauss) 3.24

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