New Year’s Concert 2016

1 Jan

It was an especially wonderful concert today, fitting, one could say, for the 75th anniversary of the event.

The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) led into the program with a brief documentary about the Strauss family, narrated by Johann Strauss’s  great to the nth power grandson, Eduard Strauss. He put some of the pieces into context (like what “Extrapost” was), gave an inside look at his family, including how they spelled their name (sometimes with two Ss, sometimes with one, and sometimes with with the German ß), and explained what makes for a good interpretation of a waltz. A good performance “zieht” or pulls the listeners and dancers in; a bad one “schiebt” or pushes them. A good one also remains at all times danceable, never varying the tempo so much that the dancers are left stranded.

The Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Mariss Jansons managed to create just the right kind of pull in the balanced program of waltzes, polkas, and marches that opened with the “UNO March” composed by the late Austrian composer, Robert Stolz, to celebrate the opening of the United Nations offices in Vienna. This was surely a tribute to Ban Ki-moon, who attended this year’s concert with the President of Austria.

There were the usual humorous touches–like Mariss Jansons’s taking a bank note out of the concert master’s jacket pocket to tip the messenger who delivered a Strauss heirloom baton by “Extrapost”–as well as a display of the unexpected versatility of the Vienna Philharmonic, who whistled, sighed, and groaned as required on top of playing with their usual virtuousity.

In their first appearance the ballet showcased the beautiful historic racetrack in the Prater, Freudenau. They returned to Schönbrunn for their second appearance, danced to the “Kaiserwalzer,” with some very good dancing and something of a surprise ending.

All in all, a good start to the year 2016. I may be buying the DVD of this one, and I have to say the last recording of the concert I bought was with von Karajan conducting and Kathleen Battle singing in 1987.

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