What a way to start a new year!
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Into the ornately decorated oblong concert hall, said to have the best acoustics in the world, 2000 well-dressed patrons crowded on New Year's Day 2007 to enjoy the annual New Year Vienna Philharmonic Concert - the conductor Zubin Mehta. As usual the event was telecast throughout the world. Also on hand were a team of DGG camera and recording personnel, and the result is this splendid DVD.
On the program are 5 items apiece by brothers Johann and Josef Strauss, 4 by their father, 1 by their brother Eduard, and 2 by Josef Hellmesberger. Of the Johann items I especially welcome the waltz "Wo die Zitronen bluhn", apparently a favorite also of Zubin Mehta. "I love this piece," he said, "and I've never done it before with the `Wiener'." 2 of the Josef Strauss waltzes included, with their dramatic introductions, have long been favorites with conductors, as has Johann's best overture - "Waldmeister" Overture.
Mehta's way with waltzes is to hold back the pulse ("rattenuto" in Italian) each time the opening refrain occurs. With all items, also, he tends to cut off the final chord a split second early.
At least one item provides some enjoyable badinage between conductor and players. Mehta conducts throughout without scores. The DVD provides, as an extra, members of the Vienna State Opera and Volksoper Ballet in ballet versions of two of the waltzes. Another extra features various Austrian wind ensembles performing in beautiful Austrian park and mountain settings. One ensemble performs on a raft floating down the Danube.
One of the finest New Year's Eve Concerts in Recent Memory
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 02/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without a doubt, this year's New Year's Eve concert (broadcast on PBS here in the United States) was among the finest I've heard from the Wiener Philharmoniker in recent memory. Much to my amazement, Zubin Mehta was truly magnificient in leading the orchestra in lesser known waltzes, polkas and other dances composed by the Strauss family, with most of the concert devoted to the works of Johann Strauss and Josef Strauss. He truly demonstrated much empathy for the music, leading the orchestra in passionate, quite memorable, performances (I had also forgotten how superb a conductor Mehta truly is, and this concert was a splendid reminder of his superb talent as one of our foremost conductors of classical music.). It's reasonable to state that this concert merely reaffirms recent critical praise the Wiener Philharmoniker has received from a French magazine which listed this orchestra as Europe's finest; clearly the overall quality of the Wiener Philharmoniker's musicianship is exceptional, which this fine DVD merely emphasizes both sonically and visually. From a musicological perspective, the 2007 concert was as intriguing as Nikolaus Harnoncourt's two New Year's Concert series held earlier in this decade, in which the venerable Austrian musicologist and conductor did a fine job in clearing the cobwebs of some of the Strauss family's best known works, and introducing audiences to other elegant, but lesser known, works of theirs. Zubin Mehta apparently adhered to Harnoncourt's philosophy too, with ample popular acclaim earned from the Musikverein's spellbound audience. True to tradition, the concert concluded with a New Year greeting from Maestro Mehta spoken in immaculate, flawless German, followed by the traditional encores of Johann Strauss Jr.'s Blue Danube Waltz and his father's Radetzky March."
The Broadcast Was Fun!
A. Pfeffer | San Marcos, CA USA | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD release is still many weeks away, so this is a comment on the New Year's PBS broadcast. The 2007 concert with Zubin Mehta was one of the best in recent years. (2002 with Seiji Ozawa was also unusually satisfying, with a program of lesser-known pieces by the Strausses and Friends.) I used to record these broadcasts, but now I prefer to pay for the DVD versions, which usually have several huge plusses: (1) no over-the-hill Walter Cronkite or other smarmy Celebrity Host to dumb everything down for us American yokels; (2) much more natural musical dynamics, without the broadcast gain-riding that wipes out the loud parts; (3) removal of the dance numbers to an intermission feature instead of the intrusive cutting-away of the broadcast; and (4) (maybe?) no PBS end credits, which, in the broadcast, scroll before our tired eyes interminable rosters of PBS administrators (though way too fast to read!).
Mehta, an old Vienna hand who appears to be enjoying a musical rebirth in this late stage of his career, conducts with spirit and mirth, and the inimitable Vienna Philharmonic responds with gusto and its usual creamy tone. Like Ozawa's, the selections favor lesser-known waltzes, marches, and polkas over the war-horses, but, in case you're concerned, the Blue Danube and the Radetzky March occupy their traditional spot at the end."