Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
The Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concerts are without doubt the greatest media event in classical music. To mark its 75th anniversary, Sony Classical 2015 published a complete edition of all the works ever performed at the New Year’s Concerts. The live performances from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein were created between 1941 and 2015 and were first released in a single box with 23 CDs. Now, in 2020, this edition will be available as an extended version with 26 CDs, with the entire new repertoire of the last five years compiled on three additional CDs.
The starting signal for this great tradition was given on New Year’s Day 1941, when the conductor Clemens Krauss, a native of Vienna, gave a Strauss family concert with the Philharmonic Orchestra – despite his fears “that the aftermath of New Year’s Eve might have a negative influence on the number of visitors”. His concern proved to be unjustified. Until his death in 1954 – with the exception of 1946-47, when Josef Krips took his place – Krauss shaped the profile of the concerts. In those years it was only broadcast on the radio. Under Krauss’ successor, the Philharmonic’s concertmaster Willy Boskovsky – he conducted the New Year’s Concert more than 25 times, with the violin in his hand, as Johann Strauss himself had done – television broadcasts began and soon became an event that was enjoyed by audiences all over the world.
Since 1980 the Philharmonic Orchestra has been inviting leading conductors to Vienna to ring in the New Year. From 1980 to 1986, as well as in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2005, Lorin Maazel stood at the podium of the Philharmonic. He was followed by Herbert von Karajan (1987), Claudio Abbado (1988, 1991), Carlos Kleiber (1989, 1992), Zubin Mehta (1990, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2015), Riccardo Muti (1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2018), Nikolaus Harnoncourt (2001, 2003), Seiji Ozawa (2002), Mariss Jansons (2006, 2012, 2016), Georges Prêtre (2008, 2010), Daniel Barenboim (2009, 2014), Franz Welser-Möst (2011, 2013), Gustavo Dudamel (2017), Christian Thielemann (2019) and Andris Nelsons (2020).
These top-class musical directors – all with a special affinity to the orchestra and a special flair for Viennese music – conduct the Vienna Philharmonic here in 357 compositions based on the musical dynasty founded in the 1820s by Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss, which was then triumphantly continued by Strauss’ sons Josef, Edward and, of course, the “King of Waltzes” Johann II. Works by Mozart, Schubert, Weber, Brahms, Berlioz, Suppé, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Czibulka, Lehár, Stolz and Waldteufel were also performed. One CD consists of stylistically appropriate new recordings of eleven works by the Strauss family, which were performed only once in the first years of the New Year’s Concerts under Clemens Krauss or Josef Krips, but were not recorded. (Two excerpts from the first concert under Krauss in 1941, which was recorded, are included here). And each CD has been given a suitable title, such as “Liebesgrüße”, “Opern-Soiree” or “Wein, Weib und Gesang”.
The accompanying booklet contains an essay by Dr. Clemens Hellsberg – longtime philharmonic violinist, historian and former president – as well as pictures from the orchestra’s archives.