Sunday, 1 January 2012

More New Year Swallows from Austria

So this year's New Year's Day concert from Vienna with Mariss Jansons was a triumph. My family greatly enjoyed commenting on the Maestro's expressions (the word 'maestro' has always made me smile ever since Seinfeld) and I expressed my satisfaction that he wore a good grey suit. (By the way, what's with those black Mao suits that seem to have become so popular with conductors in recent years. Mark Elder wore one when conducting for the BBC's Symphony series recently. It makes them look like Kim Jong Un, which surely isn't a good look?)

Kim Jung Un
The concert hall looked as stunning as ever, there was a fetching lady harpist (one of just two women in the orchestra - how very sexist of them!) and the ballet scenes on television were as fantastical and feel-good (and silly) as anything out of Disney. The Vienna Phil were as immaculately delightful as ever and, by being so, showed for another year the sheer mastery of orchestral colour that the Strauss Family could seemingly conjure at will.

There were plenty of old favourites, but part of the appeal of these concerts is that they also give us rarities, and these can prove highly palatable morsels. I'll mention just one example - the work that opened the concert. Given its title and the circumstances of its composition (a time of war), the Vaterlandischer Marsch (a joint effort between Johann II and Josef) could so easily have been a patriotic potboiler but proved instead to be a delight, glittering with geniality. Its perky second tune shows how piccolos and flutes atop a string tune can perk it up even more and the more rhythmically insistent third tune demonstrates a classic Strauss Family ploy, starting quite sparely with winds and strings before the full strings, the heavier brass and the percussion enter to give added glamour. The piece quotes their father's famous Radetzky Marsch (which, as ever, ended the concert with a little help from the audience), plus the Rákóczi Marsch (which Berlioz arranged so memorably in his Damnation of Faust) and the Austrian national anthem of the time (borrowed from Haydn), now associated with a certain neighbouring country. The orchestra, as you can hear and see from the given link (yes, it's on YouTube already!), make it sing, swing and sparkle. 

Ah, thank you Vienna, we love you!

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