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Das Philharmonische Tagebuch

水, 14. 1月 2009

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Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert 2009

This year's Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert 2009 featured numerous premieres and a notable anniversary: for the first time a composition by Josef Haydn appeared on a New Year's Concert program; Daniel Barenboim conducted the concert for the first time; and ROLEX was introduced as the sole presenting sponsor for the first time; the world-wide television marketing was handled for the first time by the Lucerne company T.E.A.M. Marketing AG; and the 50th anniversary of the television broadcast of the concert by the ORF was also commemorated. Following last year's record number of 59 television stations carrying the broadcast live or time delayed, thus reaching an being unprecedented number of viewers, this year's concert was broadcast by 73 television stations in 71 countries ( Europe 39, America 17, Asia/Oceana 9, Africa 6).

The first half of the concert was composed entirely of works by Johann Strauss, Jr. and called attention indirectly to the biography of Daniel Barenboim, the general music director of the "Staatsoper Unter den Linden" in Berlin. The opening overture was from the Strauss operetta, "Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice)", which had its world premiere in Berlin, unlike all of his other stage works which were premiered in Vienna. With the waltz "Märchen aus dem Orient (Fairy Tale from the Orient)", op. 444, which was played for the first time on the New Year's Concert program, allusion was made to the modern 'fairy tale' of Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said, who together conceived and founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999. The "Annen Polka", which was composed in 1852, directed one's attention to the family life of the composer himself, since his mother's name was Anna (born, Streim), and the first-time performance on the New Year's concert program of the "Schnellpost-Polka", op. 159, led to the next piece with had a Barenboim family connection, as the performance of the  waltz "Rosen aus dem Süden (Roses from the South)", op. 388, was a personal request of Barenboim's wife, the Russian pianist Elena Bashkirova. The fast polka, "Freikugeln (Magic Bullets)", op. 326, reminds of another conciliatory event, having been composed for the Viennese National Shooting Competition, sponsored by international marksmen associations, which took place in the Prater in 1868. At this festival, Austrian and Prussians, who had just two years earlier had been fighting a bloody war against one another, joined in a peaceful shooting competition.

The second half of the New Year's Concert made indirect reference to Joseph Haydn. This master composer was the music director for Prince Esterházy from 1761 through 1790 and from 1795 through 1809, and in this capacity he spent practically thirty years in Eisenstadt at the Esterháza Palace. In honour of the contribution made by this influential Hungarian family to Europe's cultural heritage, several program choices were selected from the "Hungarian" Strauss repertoire. Two were taken directly from "The Gypsy Baron" (Overture and Processional March), as was the "Schatz-Walzer" (Treasure Walz) op. 418, which is comprised of dance motives from the same operetta. These pieces were augmented by the fast polka "Éljen a Magyár, op. 332, which Johann Strauss dedicated to "the noble Hungarian nation".

In between, there were three other pieces introduced for the first time on this concert, which formed a musical journey through Europe. With his "Valse espagnole", Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., who from 1901 through 1903 was the subscription concert conductor and a member of the executive committee of the Vienna Philharmonic, was featured in a New Year's Concert program for the eighth time. Joseph Strauss, Sen. was represented with his "Zampa" Gallop, which was based on an extremely popular opera of the same name by the French composer Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold. The Alexandrinen Polka, composed by Johann Strauss, Jr. in Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg was reminiscent of a very important chapter in the life of the this composer, who spent several highly successful summers there.

The fast polka, "Unter Donner und Blitz" (Under Thunder and Lightning)" op. 324, by Johann Strauss, and his brother Josef's waltz "Sphärenklänge (Music of the Spheres)", op. 325, which is one of the greatest and profound works of the entire genre, were interspersed among the Hungarian portions of the program before this year's musical honouree made his debut on the program with one of his best known compositions, the "Farewell" Symphony. This work is to this day the subject of numerous theories as to its origin, the most popular of these being that Haydn cleverly composed the piece to express the dissatisfaction among his musicians at the Esterházy castle with the long summer season. Whatever the case may be, the instructions which are found in numerous copies of the work indicating how the orchestra should gradually leave the stage, were followed to the letter at the 2009 New Year's Concert. Most certainly it was a homage to the "father of the symphony", as Josef Haydn is known, and at the same time paid tribute to the unique humour of this brilliant composer whose importance to this day can hardly be adequately expressed. The first encore of the New Year's Concert was the fast polka, "So ängstlich sind wir nicht (So Fearful We are not)", op. 413, for which the entire orchestra returned to the stage, and which brought the program round full circle, since Johann Strauss took its motives from the operetta, "Eine Nacht in Venedig".

In traditional fashion, the "Blue Danube" Waltz and the "Radetzky March" closed the New Year's Concert, which as in previous years had been preceded by the New Year's Eve Concert and the Preview Performance on December 30th, at which the upper balcony of the Golden Hall is reserved for the Austrian armed forces, while € 100.000,- from the proceeds from the sale of the main floor and mezzanine seats, in accordance with the resolution of the entire Philharmonic membership, were donated to "Licht ins Dunkel" and which through this institution are being channelled to the Catastrophe Fund for Austrian Women, the Emergency Fund for Families in Need, the Rainbows Association, which administers aid to children who have lost a close family member, the Neunerhaus, and Viva, an integrative children's theatre in Vienna.

 

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