Mariss Jansons / Wiener Philharmoniker

New Year's Concert 2012

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

This two-CD album of favorites by a number of Strausses (Johann I, Johann II, Josef, and Eduard) and other European composers performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Mariss Jansons is enjoyable, but not extraordinary or inspired. The album begins with a medley of well-known pieces in "Vaterländischer Marsch," and it reveals another flaw: the sound is flattened without much reverb or ring. This is of course unrelated to the high quality of the musicians, but the recorded sound contributes to the somewhat lackluster character of the album. This is a live concert recording and the orchestra improves as the concert progresses, as the players get more into the material. Highlights on the first CD include the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, with the Vienna Boys' Choir, which adds a sweetness to the piece. The fact that the boys' lovely high voices do not ring confirms the problem of the album's sound quality. Other highlights include the bouncing, gliding tenderness of the waltz Wiener Bürger, the high drama and passion of Danse diabolique, and the grace of Delirien. The second CD has more to offer, and as above, the orchestra is more connected to the music, more warmed up. The clever train created by the Copenhagener Eisenbahn-Dampf Galopp is sure to delight as it chugs along, complete with whistles, with perfect orchestral synchronicity. Opera lovers will recognize the famous themes in the Carmen-Quadrille, which is quite an ingenious arrangement of the original work. Another great work that is arranged for the orchestra is the Panorama aus Dornröschen (Panorama from Sleeping Beauty) by Tchaikovsky, and it is a nice contrast to the waltzes and polkas. Certainly no album of Viennese favorites would be complete without An der schönen, blauen Donau (Beautiful Blue Danube), and the orchestra creates smooth legato lines with the right amount of rubato for tension. The audience cannot resist clapping along to Radetzky-Marsch, which is certainly inviting with its sense of fun. In sum, this is a world-class orchestra that has not been given a world-class recording quality, and it is repeating old material. Like many repeated occasions, sometimes they are more trustworthy and familiar than sparkling and exciting.

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