This 2004 edition of the New Year's Day concerts from the VPO is Riccardo Muti's fourth time of conducting it. His previous occasion in 2000 was very successful but here he is able to sparkle even more.
The 2004 concert celebrates the 200th anniversary of the elder Johann Strauss's birth in 1804 and this is coupled with a celebration of Lanner who shared in the establishment of the Viennese waltz. The two initially played together in small ensembles of Lanner's before Strauss formed his own orchestra. The first part of this concert celebrates these connections and the second half focusses on other Strauss family members, Josef, Johann II and Eduard.
Throughout all of these pieces Muti galvanises the orchestra to produce playing of utmost sparkle and brilliance much to the delight of both the audience and the players themselves. The champagne shared at the end of the Champagne-Polka is richly deserved! The Radetzky March audience clapping is the most enjoyably controlled since Karajan's famous conducting and provides an extraordinarily happy end to the occasion for all!
As he has done before, Muti actually makes a short speech at the appropriate moment in which he stresses the importance of music to all of humanity on the grounds that we all share the same emotional responses that can be affected by the music of Strauss. This makes Muti different from so many other conductors who simply wish everyone, with the orchestra, a Happy New Year.
There are two enjoyable bonus features entitled `Figure Skating Impressions' (very short) and the 24 minute `Treasures of Vienna'. Both of these are without script except identifying titles of venues and music and rely entirely on images and music being otherwise self-explanatory.
The production by the experienced and very reliable Brian Large team is superb with clear imaging and involving camera work. The sound is spectacular in DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and stereo. The roll of the bass drum is really something to feel in the `With Pleasure' polka on suitably wide ranging equipment!
These concerts are reliably enjoyable but this one is especially fine. It seems most likely that purchasers will get great pleasure form it in all sorts of ways. Five stars therefore seems the correct assessment for this disc.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
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I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
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Thank you (UK review)