The ever popular New Year's Concert from Vienna returns in another sparkling performance, broadcast live to over 50 countries! Daniel Barenboim makes his New Year's Concert debut and brings with him a number of works that... more » have never been performed at the concert before. The live concert features popular waltzes, gallops and polkas from the Strauss family including The Blue Danube, The Gypsy Baron March, Thunder and Lightening Polka and much more. CD is at a special 2-for-1 price. DVD includes complete performance as featured on CD as well as special ballet bonus performances.« less
Barenboim brings humor, politics and great playing to a new
T. Fisher | 01/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I should start by saying I really like Daniel Barenboim. Besides the fact that he is one of the great musical interpreters of our time, I also enjoy his outspokenness about music, life and politics.
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. "
Splendid Musical Performance from the Wiener Philharmoniker
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 02/24/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's an annual treat and tradition of mine to see the New Year's Concert as it is broadcasted live on PBS here in New York, and then, weeks later, to hear this great orchestra perform live at its favorite North American venue, Carnegie Hall (I have had the pleasure of meeting several of its musicians, including one of its concertmasters, and all have spoken enthusiastically about performing at Carnegie Hall.). I was especially looking forward to hearing this year's concert under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, especially when he had taken them on tour to Carnegie Hall a few seasons ago. Musically, I am not disappointed with this year's outing, enjoying once more the excellent sounds of the orchestra in its permanent home, Vienna's Musikverein. But much to my surprise, Barenboim's conducting was more routine in this concert than what I remembered from him here in New York City. More routine except for his humorous conducting of the last movement from Haydn's "Farewell Symphony", performed as a lighthearted tribute to the composer in this, the 200th anniversary of his death.
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."
New Year's Magic
Kenneth R White | 01/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a worldwide musical highlight of New Year's day. I watch it on TV with my wife every year. This year (1/1/2009) a children's ballet sequence (absolutely brilliant) was interwoven into the fabric of the concert/video during the orchestra's performance of The Blue Danube. Vienna has a depth of creative music and artistic talent that boggles the mind. Apparently it is boundless. Wonderful."
A Happy New Year!
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 01/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A Happy New Year! It is a greeting and a wish exchanged in all languages in all countries throughout the world, but nowhere is it better expressed in music than at the annual New Year's Day concert in Vienna. The joy, the fun, the exquisite beauty and the high spirits - all these are found in the music offered here, principally provided by members of Vienna's Strauss Family.
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.
Nataniel Picado Alvares | Santos, Brazil | 09/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD New Year's Concert 2009 is a wonderful concert where Daniel Barenboim is fenomenal!...."