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At this year's New Year's Concert, Georges Prêtre made his second appearance on the podium, and the presence of this pre-eminent French conductor had its influence upon the pieces selected for the program. Vienna has played a prominent role in Prêtre's career, thus the opening piece for the New Year's Concert 2010 was the Overture to "Fledermaus", the most Viennese of all operettas. "Ich liebe Dich" (I love you), is a phrase which all German orchestras with whom Prêtre has worked recognize as an expression with which he elucidates desired musical phrasings. In recognition of this declaration of his love for music, the first part of the concert contained works of Johann and Joseph Strauss dedicated to love. Joseph, the more sensitive representative of the family, wrote "Frauenherz ('A Woman's Heart')", op. 166, for his wife, Caroline; in Johann Strauss' popular Polka française, "Im Krapfenwaldl", op. 336, kisses are mixed with cuckoo calls and other voices from nature; whereas the fast polka "Stürmish in Lieb' und Tanz ('Stormy in Love and Dance')", op. 393, the "King of the Waltz" uses motifs taken from his operetta "Das Spitzentuch der Königin ('The Queen's Lace Handkerchief')" to form the transition to his waltz "Wein, Weib und Gesang (Wine, Women and Song)", op. 333. As the conclusion of the first half of the concert, the oft attested "eternal love" was symbolized by the musical expression of another aspiration of mankind -"Perpetuum mobile", op. 257, composed in 1861, puts into perspective the boundaries of humanity and nature.
The second part of the concert began with a tribute to Otto Nicolai, the founder of the Vienna Philharmonic, who was born on June 9, 1810 in Königsberg and died on May 11, 1849 in Berlin. Under his artistic and organisational expertise, the members of the Court Opera Orchestra, on March 28, 1842, gave the first Philharmonic concert. The basic principles established then – required membership in the Vienna State Opera, (as the successor to the Court Opera Orchestra) as well as democratic self-government and artistic, financial and organizational autonomy are still in practice to this day. In his honor, the orchestra performs the "Nicolai Concert" annually within the subscription concert series, an this year we expressed our gratitude with the performance of the overture to his opera "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at the 2010 New Year's Concert.
The waltz "Wiener Bonbons (Viennese Bonbons)", op. 307, introduced an additional thematic idea to this year's programming. Johann Strauss dedicated this piece, which combines the Viennese waltz tradition with Parisian flair, to Princess Pauline Metternich, the wife of the Austrian Ambassador to France. Following the "Champagner-Polka (Champagne Polka)", op. 211, which Johann Strauss composed in 1858, the polka mazur "Ein Herz und Ein Sinn (One Heart, One Mind)", op. 323 was performed, which with its programmatic title emphasized the portion of the concert dealing with the influence of French music on the Strauss family and their congenial rivalry with Jacques Offenbach. The gallop "Der Carneval in Paris (The Carnival in Paris)", op. 100, by Johann Strauss, Sr. was performed for the first time at the New Year's Concert, as was Offenbach's "Die Rheinnixen (The Rhein Fairies)" which had its world premiere in 1864 at the Vienna Court Opera. Although it was unsuccessful, the work did contain one of the most famous melodies in music history, as the fairy music from the "Rheinnixen" was later transformed into the "Barcarole" in "Hoffman's Erzählungen (The Tales of Hoffman)", which greatly contributed to the worldwide success of Offenbach's final opera.
In spite of his disappointment with the "Rheinnixen", Jacques Offenbach scored a hit in that very same year with the premiere on December 17, 1864, of his operetta "Die schöne Helena (The Beautiful Helena)". This triumph can be measured by the fact that Eduard, the youngest member of the Strauss family, paid his respects by composing the "Helenen-Quadrille", op. 14, which this year also made its debut on the program of the New Year's Concert. Before this on January 12, 1864, the "Waltz King" had a chance for a direct comparison with Offenbach at the Journalists and Writers Association Ball, "Concordia", for which occasion both composers had been invited to provide a composition. In reply to Offenbach's composition entitled "Abendblätter (Evening Papers)", Johann Strauss, Jr. wrote "Morgenblätter (Morning Papers)", op. 279, which became one of his most popular works.
The New Year's Concert came to an official conclusion with our first performance of a composition by Hans Christian Lumbye. This Danish conductor and composer (1810-1874), who was represented on the program with his most popular work, the "Champagner-Galopp (Champagne Gallop)", was greatly influenced in his younger years by Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr. Lumbye enjoyed such success on international concert tours with his orchestra that he was referred to as the "Strauss of the North". The fast polka "Auf der Jagd (On the Hunt)", op. 373, which Johann Strauss arranged from motifs taken from the operetta "Cagliostro in Wien (Caliostro in Vienna')" was the first encore of the New Year's Concert, being followed by the traditional performances of the "Blue Danube Waltz" and the "Radetzky March".
As in the previous year, ROLEX was the exclusive sponsor and the world-wide TV marketing was under the auspices of the Lucerne Firm T.E.A.M. Marketing AG, whereby in addition to the obligatory press conference on December 28, 2009, a "Media Day" for commentators from the various TV and radio companies was held. The ORF broadcast the New Year's Concert for the 52nd time, and the concert was broadcast to 74 TV stations in 72 countries, including for the first time Belarus and Mongolia. The matinee on January 1st and the New Year's Eve Concert were as usual preceded by the Preview Performance on December 30, 2009, in which traditionally the balcony of the Golden Hall is reserved for the Austrian Armed Forces while the seats of the main floor of the auditorium are sold to the public, with the proceeds providing for the donation of a sum of €100,000 for "Licht ins Dunkel" which passes these funds on to Emergency Aid for Austrian women, Teddy Schwarzohr (an association supporting chronically ill children), the Viennese Social Aid and the Neurological Psychiatric Department for Children and Youth at the Neurological Center Rosenhügel.
-- Dr. Clemens Hellsberg