Gustavo Dudamel / Wiener Philharmoniker

Neujahrskonzert / New Year's Concert 2017

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This 2017 concert, on the market by the end of the second week in January, marked the first Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert led by the sensational Venezuelan-American conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Those hoping, or fearing, that he would shake up the repertory of this Vienna institution, are given little material to work with; the program follows the time-honored pattern, with the Strauss family in the foremost position and The Beautiful Blue Danube in its proper place in the encores. This said, Dudamel's New Year's Concert is fresh and energetic, and really a great deal of fun. The Viennese audience rewards him with warm applause and as much enthusiasm as Viennese can muster. He introduces quite a few pieces that are new to the concert, closing out the first half with the utterly charming Pepita-Polka, Op. 138, an unjustly neglected masterpiece of Johann Strauss II. There are no fewer than four Johann II premieres, and among the other newcomers is the familiar Skaters' Waltz (Les Patineurs) of Emile Waldteufel. In the main Strauss pieces, Dudamel applies his high-energy but precise sound to this highly familiar material, and lo and behold it works: there are foot-tappers galore, but the characteristic Strauss humor is not lost. Sample the Rotunde-Quadrille, Op. 360, of Johann II for an idea, and note that the sound quality on the New Year's Concert release gets just a little better each year. The New Year's Concert, far from being a moribund tradition, is a growing phenomenon, broadcast as far afield as Indonesia and Mozambique. With satisfying performances like these, that trend seems likely to continue.

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