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New Year's Concert 1991 / Abbado, Vienna Philharmonic

Abbado / Vpo
Release Date: 01/08/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001037909  
Composer:  Gioachino RossiniJosef StraussFranz SchubertJosef Lanner,   ... 
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



NEW YEAR’S CONCERT 1991 Claudio Abbado, cond; Vienna PO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00440 073 4362 (DVD: 94:36)


J. STRAUSS I Seufzer Gallop. Piefke und Pufke Polka. Radetzky March. J. STRAUSS II Waldmeister: Overture. Freikugeln-Polka. Emperor Waltz. Furioso-Polka. Tempestuous in Love and Dance. The Blue Danube. Josef STRAUSS Read more class="ARIAL12bi">The Dancing Muse. Aquarelles. E. STRAUSS Carmen Quadrille. LANNER The Suitors. MOZART Contradances, K 609/1,3. German Dance, “Sleigh Ride.” ROSSINI La gazza ladra: Overture. SCHUBERT (arr. Maderna) Polka. Galopp


I remember eagerly taping this film off the television when it first aired, and still have the videocassette—in a box somewhere. Having spent the previous year in Vienna, I had returned to the U.S. captivated by the uncanny sensitivity of the Philharmonic musicians for the subtle phrasings and rhythmic idioms of their national popular music. I was also going through withdrawal spasms, desperately seeking out any trace of Austrian culture I could find. In those days, one could not console oneself with podcasts of ORF news broadcasts or the latest episode of Berlin-Berlin. Music in recorded form was the only lifeline, and the New Year’s broadcast the closest thing to “live from Vienna” then available.


The other attraction, of course, is that this particular concert was led by the then 52-year-old Claudio Abbado, at the peak of his tenure as music director of the Vienna State Opera, whose orchestra roster is mostly identical with that of the Philharmonic. It was also the second and last time he was invited for the concert. The tradition of handing the baton to a different conductor every year did not actually begin until 1987, when the almost 80-year old Herbert von Karajan took the podium for the only time. From its founding by Clemens Krauss in 1933, the concert had experienced only four conductors through 1986, with Willi Boskovsky leading it every year from 1955–1979. Since then, patterns have emerged, with some figures, like Lorin Maazel and Riccardo Muti, returning regularly, and others receiving single engagements. In 1991, I think it was expected that Abbado would be back. But, as with Carlos Kleiber, his two engagements have proved his only ones; also as with Kleiber, they were legendary.


Opening with one of the conductor’s Rossini specialties, this concert plays to Abbado’s strengths: familiar repertoire rendered fresh through acute attention to detail and unfamiliar material rendered urgent by the same care. The always-judicious instrumental close-ups amplify the spine-tingling precision of this band in a way that lends the Thieving Magpie substance without weighing it down. Similar precision marks every work, rendering the slightest bon-bon eminently worth savoring. While the conductor’s Mahler films with the Lucerne Festival orchestra and the handful of opera films he made during his Vienna tenure will document the sublimity of his achievement, this video rises to the top of all of these by virtue of isolating the essence of his technique: sparing gestures, carefully layered dynamics, every detail thrillingly coordinated, all while creating the illusion of spontaneity. Shaping without overt manipulation.


As is typical with these concerts, the most rewarding performances involve the least familiar items. The Seufzer (“Sighs”) Gallop , for instance, rivets the viewer with its many sparkling filigrees and Abbado’s careful layering of dynamics, the precision of wind attacks contrasting with the slapstick of the orchestra’s vocal sighs near the end. The overture to Waldmeister , the next to last of Johann Jr.’s 16 stage works, offers a fascinating glimpse into a score otherwise never heard. Similar observations could be drawn from almost any moment of this most lively and detailed of all the New Year’s concerts we now can go back and access. The frantic pace of the opening of Eduard Strauss’s Carmen Quadrille pays dividends as the medley lurches back and forth among famous quotations from the opera, sometimes shoehorned into unfamiliar meters, but always relishing stylistic contrasts, snarky homage to an operatic war-horse.


With only two exceptions, the film offers a straightforward portrait of a conductor and orchestra meticulously at work in the hall of the Musikverein. Those two exceptions, Josef Strauss’s Aquarelles and The Blue Danube, show members of the Vienna State Opera Ballet dancing to tasteful choreography, the Danube projected in rather cloying fashion against the backdrop of the river itself, glistening in the sunlight. Other shots in these two pieces capture the statues and horticulture of Vienna’s City Park, ending with the famous statue of the Waltz King himself. At least we are spared the introductions by Walter Cronkite, calculated to mediate the city and the concert to an audience of presumed neophytes.


Abbado is throughout sparing in his motions, yet always animated, drawing the broader phrase while coaxing his players to etch encouraging detail. The Kaiser-Walzer has never radiated so much virtuosic spontaneity, dynamic range, dizzying detail, and hidden symphonic scope. And the refusal to condescend lends the mandatory encores ( Blue Danube and the Radetzky March ) a joy and even dignity that transcends the rather high norm of this series


This release is rather curiously billed as the “Director’s Cut” on the cover of the DVD. What this means is less clear. There are no extras, and I could not determine where to look for interventions from the ubiquitous Brian Large. At the same time, the film is a model of active camera engagement with live performance. Sound is bright and dry, but clear. As a document of subtle, refined conducting, this film is self-recommending, doubly so to fans of this series, of which this is perhaps the most important after the Kleiber films.


FANFARE: Christopher Williams
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Works on This Recording

1.
La gazza ladra: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Italy 
2.
Die tanzende Muse, Op. 266 by Josef Strauss
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Aquarellen, Op. 258 by Josef Strauss
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Galop and Ecossaises (8) for Piano, D 735/Op. 49: Ecossaise no 1 by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
5.
Die Werber, Op. 103 by Josef Lanner
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Vienna, Austria 
6.
Seufzer-Galopp, Op. 9 by Johann Strauss Sr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Austria 
7.
Piefke und Pufke, Op. 235 by Johann Strauss Sr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Radetzky March, Op. 228 by Johann Strauss Sr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848; Vienna, Austria 
9.
Waldmeister: Overture by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895; Berlin, Germany 
10.
Freikugeln, Op. 326 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869; Vienna, Austria 
11.
Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Vienna, Austria 
12.
Furioso-Polka, Op. 260 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; Vienna, Austria 
13.
An der schönen, blauen Donau, Op. 314 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Vienna, Austria 
14.
Contradances (5), K 609: no 1 in C major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
15.
Contradances (5), K 609: no 3 in D major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
16.
German Dances (3), K 605: no 3 in C major "Sleigh ride" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Vienna, Austria 
17.
Carmen-quadrille, Op. 134 by Eduard Strauss
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Well Played, If Not The Greatest Repertoire Mix February 12, 2013 By Mark Stenroos (Aliso Viejo, CA) See All My Reviews "I was surprised to realize that Claudio Abbado made only two appearances as conductor of the VPO New Year's Concert - the concert presented on this DVD, and an earlier appearance in 1988. I'm familiar with a number of tracks from these concerts as DG has featured them on numerous compilation CDs over the years...which had me mistakenly believing that Abbado had been more of a regular at this event. The present concert is very enjoyable - highly nuanced, exciting, precise and dynamic, though it is wanting in the feeling of nostalgia that is writ large on the very best renditions of music by the Strauss Family. The inclusion of music by Rossini, Schubert and Mozart is too much and tends to knock the rationale behind this traditional concert slightly off its tracks. The orchestra responds well to Abbado's fluid direction, which is always a joy to watch. He knows what he wants, he knows what the orchestra can do, and he gets his way. There are technical flourishes in this concert that need to be heard to be believed (the piccolo player really earns his money on this concert!). Sound on the DVD is great. Picture isn't all that great, but that may be my perception after watching BDs for a couple of years. Standards change. I had this concert on Laserdisc back in the day. DG reissued it on DVD in 2007 - too bad that was a couple of years before BD really got going, especially in classical music, where even today the majority of video releases are limited to release on DVD, rather than the much-superior BD format. The DVD was certainly worth the $9.99 I spent through amazon marketplace seller ArchivMusic, who delivered the sealed product within 3 days of ordering. Recommended, especially for fans of Abbado and NYD concert completists." Report Abuse
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