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Concert Du Nouvel An 2009
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LA FETE DE LA MUSIQUE AU MOIS DE JANVIER !!! Le concert du Nouvel An 2009 sera dirigé par l'un des plus grands chefs actuels : Daniel Barenboim, très apprécié du public français. C'EST L'EVENEMENT CLASSIQUE DE CE DEBUT D'ANNEE !!! Le rendez-vous traditionnel du mois de janvier, toujours très attendu, pour tous les amateurs de musique ! L'année dernière, plus de 60 millions de téléspectateurs ont regardé le concert du nouvel an dans 50 pays, sur 5 continents différents. C'est l'évenement télévisé le plus diffusé (+ de 50 chaînes de télévision retransmettent le concert !).
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As New Year Concerts go, this one is replete with the usual assortment of favorites like the two traditional encores, Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube Waltz" and his father's "Radetzky March". And then there are some surprising novelties like Johann Strauss II's "Schnellpost-Polka" and Hellmesberger's "Valse Espagnole" (which, to my ears anyway, did evoke musically a fine portrait of Spain.). There's also excellent ballet dancing from dancers of the Vienna State Opera Ballet, especially the children from its school in a lavish, and riveting accompaniment to the "Blue Danube Waltz". I have no doubt that long-time fans of the Wiener Philharmoniker won't be disappointed with this year's concert, but those who remember vividly earlier performances from the likes of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Riccardo Muti and Zubin Mehta, among others, may be slightly disappointed.
I should also admit up front that I'm not a typical Vienna Philharmonic new year's concert fan. I have a hard time getting excited at the Strauss waltzes and polkas, as I generally like longer works with more development and maybe a slow depressing bit in the middle. Strauss often seems a bit like Sacher cake -- a great dessert, but not a meal. However, I would agree wholeheartedly that the new year's concert is a perfect opportunity to pay Strauss his due once a year, and recognize that these great compositions deserve a special niche in the repertoire.
Barenboim follows the new year's formula here, and he pulls off Strauss II with the best of them. The Strauss II selections are relatively varied and satisfying, and I appreciate that Barenboim included a kind of "mini-suite" from Zigeunerbaron, consisting of a back-to-back overture, Einzugs-Marsch and Schatz-Walzer, and giving at least some semblance of larger scope and context.
His selection of non-Strauss-II pieces was also great, including "Music of the Spheres" by Josef Strauss, which has been performed at the new year's concert before. From Hellmesberger, there is a great performance of "Valse espagnol" -- perhaps not surprising that the Argentinian-born Barenboim brings a Spanish flavor into the Viennese concert.
The real star attraction, however, was surely Haydn's Symphony No. 45 -- I only wish we could have had the whole thing and not just the 4th movement. Haydn was brought in as 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of his death, and will be marked by a flurry of concerts and events across Austria and neighboring countries.
The "Farewell" symphony injected not only variety, but also real humor into the new year concert. The symphony gets its name from the fact that the musicians walk off one by one, leaving just two violins at the end, before they also finally get up and leave. This was a message from Haydn to his Eszterhazy boss at the time that it was time to end an unexpectedly long stay at the Hungarian summer residence and head back home to Eisenstadt. Barenboim and the VPO pull off the piece with great playing and humor. Barenboim acts sufficiently surprised as the orchestra members start walking off. At the end, Barenboim cuts up with one of the remaining violinists and then continues conducting after the last have left the stage.
This all prompts plenty of laughter from the audience -- and for this reason I think it's important to get the DVD rather than the CD of this year's concert. If you only have the music, the audience laughter will be a distraction only. The joke is visual, and won't come across on a CD.
Barenboim almost wouldn't be Barenboim unless he used his speaking opportunity to talk about the Middle East, and he did this here as well. He used his traditional spot for new year's wishes to call for a "year of peace in the world and of human justice in the Middle East." He may not quite have pulled a "Vanessa Redgrave" -- there was no direct criticism of Israel -- but still, this may not be to everyone's taste.
I am ambivalent at best about all the dancing clips thrown into the concert, which became a bit exaggerated in the second half. But even there, I am willing to give a nod to the technical precision this required. All those dances were also broadcast live when the concert went out on TV -- meaning Barenboim and the VPO had to have their tempos down with metronome-like precision to match up with the spliced-in video of happy dancers with flowing gowns waltzing about in Hapsburg-style castles. Hats off to them.
All in all, I think this year's concert was a great success, and I'm sure I will watch it from time to time.
Nineteen items are included in the 2009 program: 14 by Johann Strauss Jnr, 1 waltz by Josef Strauss, 2 items by Johann Strauss Snr, 1 by Josef Hellmesberger Jnr, and - as a special "novelty" item - the final movement of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony.
Daniel Barenboim presides for the first time at these events. Perhaps the Viennese "lilt" is not as evident as some could wish, but Barenboim certainly allows the side drum to add verve to the proceedings whenever required.
Coinciding with this joyous celebration was an eruption of slaughter and destruction in Gaza, and you'll hear Barenboim adding to his new year greeting the wish that the new year will see a return to peace in that area.
As usual there are a handful of first performances at this series of concerts and on this case they add up to six. One of these is the finale to Haydn's 45th symphony, known as `The Farewell'. The reason for this name is that Haydn chose to make this music to make the point that the court musicians were overdue to return home. The musical message took the form of various members of the orchestra scored to leave as the music progressed to the end, with just Haydn and one other remaining at the end. The message was understood then and was enjoyed by the Viennese audience now! This performance also marked the first opportunity to celebrate Haydn's bicentenary.
Needless to say the remainder of the concert is equally enjoyable and of more normal fare typical of the occasion concluding with a suitably enthusiastic Radetzky March.
There are 2 bonuses which allow for the ballet sequence to be viewed separately plus a 24 minute tour of Linz, the European Capital of Culture at the time of the recording.
The recording delivers crisp HD imaging following the usual pattern of in-hall camera work interspersed with some outside scenes. The sound is clear and precise and is presented in both DTS and stereo. Those who are familiar with the work of the experienced Brian Large productions will know what to expect.
I personally enjoyed this very much and feel that it is very much up with the best of a very successful series of similar concerts over the years. As such it should give great pleasure to a great number of people and 5 stars seems a fair assessment of its quality.