Stories » Muti offers six new items to an already illustrious New Year's Concert of waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and marches / Audiophile Audition

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Muti offers six new items to an already illustrious New Year's Concert of waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and marches / Audiophile Audition

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An ardent collector of the recorded Vienna Philharmonic New Year's concerts since 1951-led by Clemens Krauss-I have followed the progression of the stellar conductors who have inaugurated Vienna's New Year with the graceful and often scintillating melodies and rhythms of the Strauss family and their worthy colleagues. Riccardo Muti leads this year's jubilant concert, offering six new items to an already illustrious gathering of waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and marches. Muti's affinity for the Viennese lilt comes across with lush authenticity, especially in the perennial 1868 Tales from the Vienna Woods and the equally hypnotic 1880 Roses from the South, but no less so in a marvelous novelty, the 1881 Myrthenblueten of Johann Strauss II, meant to celebrate Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and Princess Stephanie of Belgium, whose tragic story became the subject of the several film versions of Mayerling.

The various marches each projects a direct nobility and pomp requisite to the occasion, opening with Entrance March from Der Zigeunerbaron. Lesser known, the 1893 Festmarsch celebrates the wedding of Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma.  For an unusual-though brief-romp, try Johann Strauss Senior's 1829 William Tell Galopp, which provides only the "Lone Ranger" finale of the Rossini overture, amended with sixteen new measures. Meanwhile, the Johann Strauss II Quadrille on themes from Verdi's A Masked Ball (1862) has a courtly energy and natural Italian buoyancy.  The gifted Franz von Suppe (1819-1895) finds his infectious Boccaccio Overture (1879) in its debut at these concerts.  Alfons Czibulka (1842-1893), a military bandmaster whose work had been unfamiliar, likewise pays homage to Crown Prince Rudolf in his charming Stephanie-Gavotte. Not to forget the talented Josef Strauss (1827-1870), we have a rarity, Wiener Fresken, an effective reminder that Josef had a talent for painting as well as music.

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