Beethoven breaks into Vienna’s New Year’s Day concert

Andris Nelsons has introduced nine novelties into the Vienna Phil’s annual showpiece, including some by Beethoven (who might not have been thrilled by the format).

Here’s the rundown, released today:

Carl Michael Ziehrer Die Landstreicher
Josef Strauß Liebesgrüße (Walzer)
Josef Strauß Liechtenstein-Marsch
Johann Strauß (Sohn) Blumenfest-Polka
Johann Strauß (Sohn) Wo die Zitronen blüh’n
Eduard Strauß Knall und Fall
Franz von Suppe Leichte Kavallerie (Ouvertüre)
Josef Strauß Cupido
Johann Strauß (Sohn) Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Eduard Strauß Eisblume (Polka mazur)
Josef Hellmesberger d. Gavotte
Hans Christian Lumbye Postillon Galop P
Ludwig van Beethoven 12 Contretänze
Johann Strauß (Sohn) Freuet euch des Lebens
Johann Strauß (Sohn) Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
Josef Strauß Dynamiden (Walzer).


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      • And now it has become a “Hilfswerkkonzert” for the *poor* (tutti) members of Vienna Philharmonic.

        If Vienna Phil would use the salary of the musicians for a beneficial project, they’d contribute to a large extent to necessary aid projects in Austria and would be still a huge “Hilfsprojekt”.

      • Not everything that came from German and Austrian times under the ruling by the Nazi Party is a Nazi invention and unworthy of appreciation. Remember: lots of people who were not Nazis lived and worked in Germany and Austria during those dark years.

        Also, having a concert on NewYears’ day is a tradition at the Musikverein since the late 1920s, before the Nazi times. The Vienna Philharmonic concerts did indeed start in 1939, but it is a tradition that is worth keeping.

  • Are the Beethoven Contretänze perhaps some of the first compositions to represent the Viennese waltz? I ask in all honesty and also wonder what is the oldest music ever performed on a Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concert.

    • Barenboim included the finale from Haydn’s farewell symphony (1772) when he conducted the concert in 2009. I suspect that was the oldest piece.

      • Thank you, Jon. I had forgotten about that Haydn. What would now interest me, more to the point, would be what one would consider the earliest examples of Viennese waltzes might be? Lanner … or even earlier?

        • You would have to lookin the direction of any Ländler that may have been programmed in the past. That would be sort of the Ur-waltz.

    • For early waltzes, though not necessarily the earliest, check Harnoncourt’s wonderful double cd “Waltzer Revolution”. It has beautiful music, is educational, and pure fun to listen to.

  • I’m sure the programming has absolutely nothing to do with a recent release of Beethoven Symphonies with the VPO and same conductor.

  • Beethoven wrote the Battle Symphony and had his Violin Concerto premiered by a soloist who played novelty solos on an upside down violin in between movements. I think he’d have coped.

  • I think it’s an excellent programme. Two of J.Strauss’s most beautiful lesser-known waltzes plus Dynamiden. Beethoven fits in fine.

  • Andris Nelson’s Beethoven concerts at the Musikverein last season were just embarrasing. He is not a conductor: does not lead, does not shape… I just find it terrible. DG is so powerful that can make the WPO invite such an awful non-conductor.

    • I am surprised by your comments, especially with your experience.

      I have his Shostakovich recordings with the Boston Symphony and they are excellent and highly praised.

      More importantly, I have heard many orchestra players speak very well of him; of his musicianship and inspirational direction.

      • Recordings are a different animal. You cannot judge a conductor by the recordings… you can judge the musician. In recordings there are many more hours of rehearsal, more time for verbal instructions, there is editing, patching, retakes… a good musician but bad conductor can make a great recording.

        Judge a conductor always by a live performance and if it is a piece with soloists or singers even better.

        There is a video of Nelson’s conducting a Saint-Saens concerto on YouTube. You will see clearly what I mean.

        • Thanks for your response. I take your point about recordings.

          I attend concerts frequently and I have seen Andris Nelsons over the years (and many others) including with the Boston Symphony, Gewandhaus, and Berlin P.O.and have been impressed.

          More to the point, as I said previously, so many players speak very highly of him and so many major orchestras invite him back regularly.

          In fact, the Vienna Philharmonic went on tour to China and Japan with him last year and have booked him for a series of concerts on tour (March 2020) and in Vienna (May 2020).

          Boston and Leipzig are very happy with him and Opera houses invite him as well.

        • For a long time now in the US, orchestra recordings are made from live performances since rehearsals for recordings are prohibitively expensive.

          • You will rarely hear an orchestra member talk publicly bad about their conductor. But in private.. that is another thing! I have heard terrible things about A.N. from my friends from the Gewandhausorchester. My experience with AN is from many years ago, and I don’t remember a lot of it… that is probably because I was not impressed.

            Sometimes you have to ask yourself if it is the quality of the orchestra that is saving the situation and giving a great performance on their own or if it is the conductor who is making the orchestra sound well. In other words… with a mediocre orchestra, I don’t think A.N. could get a great performance, but a really good conductor could do a lot.

            I have no idea what happens in the US. That is a music world that is too far from here. It is true, many of the recordings are drawn from live performances. But still, live recordings are usually made from performances that are repeated (usually from programs that are played or two or three consecutive nights), and all of them very often heavily edited… in my orchestra we do make studio recordings. They are exhausting.

          • Obviously, we have seen different aspects of A.N. and have differing opinions. Nevertheless, an exchange of views and information is interesting.

            I believe we would agree that it is the sound and performance that matters, ultimately. I have found that his performances have been excellent (I know you credit the orchestra) but I believe A.N. does draw out something extra.

            I have seen him in rehearsals and know they are enjoyed by the players, he is concise and does not talk too much.

            Thanks for sharing your perspective. Even though we disagree here, I know from previous topics, that we agree on the quality of several other conductors.

    • He is a one of the three biggest conducting fakes of our time: Nelsons, de la Parra, Currentzis. Good musicians or not, they cannot conduct.

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