COMPOSERS: J Strauss I & II,Josef Strauss & Brahms,Weber/Berlioz
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: New Year’s Concert 2003
WORKS: Works by J Strauss I & II, Weber/ Berlioz, Josef Strauss & Brahms
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 474 250-2
Some cautious innovations this year. Weber’s Invitation to the Dance (orchestrated by – hush! – a Frenchman) received its first performance in these surroundings – a disappointingly flat-footed account it is, too, and with Harnoncourt failing to stop the intrusive audience applause before the cello coda. DG could have edited it out but, with commendable honesty, has not. Two Brahms Hungarian Dances, also New Year newcomers and heard in unpublished arrangements by Friedrich Reichert (1838-89), fare better, with the Vienna players responding superbly to Harnoncourt’s unshowy direction.
Of the less familiar numbers, the Jubilee March (incorporating the Austrian National Anthem) and the Furioso Polka are exhilarating finds, but a number of others sound like a collection of thematic and harmonic devices strung together on an aleatorical Strauss production line.
Though your reviewer baulked at having to listen to The Blue Danube and Radetzky March yet again, it is pure joy to listen to this great Rolls-Royce (or should that now be BMW?) of an orchestra. No matter how good or mediocre the music, its unique sound is captured magnificently by DG’s engineers. What’s more, with the CD you don’t have to watch that wretched chocolate-box ballet sequence the telly people insist on inserting each year. Jeremy Nicholas