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There were two debuts at the New Year's Concert 2011. Franz Welser-Möst, the General Music Director of the Vienna State Opera since the beginning of this season, conducted this traditional salute to the Strauss dynasty (the fifteenth conductor and seventh Austrian after Clemens Kraus, Joseph Krips, Willi Boskoskovsky, Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber and Nikolaus Harnoncourt) for the first time. The second debut was the performance of a composition by Franz Liszt, the erstwhile "master of all virtuosos", whose 200th birthday the musical world will commemorate on October 22, 2011.
The first half of the program was oriented around the biography and family history of Franz Welser-Möst. Three of the six compositions: "Reiter-Marsch", Donauweibchen" and "Muthig voran!" are composed from motives taken from the 1887 operetta "Simplicius", which, due to an inferior libretto, was not favourably received at its premiere and consequently seldom played. In Zurich, Franz Welser-Möst resurrected this work for the Strauss commemorative year of 1999, thus affording the operetta its international acclaimed Swiss premiere. The aforenamed pieces taken from this work constituted a thematic framework for the first part of the New Year's Concert 2011.
Two of the other three works on the program are reminiscent of the conductor's family history. His great-grandmother, Aloisia Wild, born Dommayer (1867-1904), was the granddaughter of Ferdinand Dommayer (1799-1858), who in the year 1832 assumed the proprietorship from his father-in-law of a restaurant in Alt-Hietzing and converted it into a casino with ball room. The establishment became historically renowned for the numerous musical occurrences on its premises. Johann Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr. both made regular appearances in the ball room, and in 1844, Strauss' 19-year-old son, Johann Strauss Jr., made his debut there with his own compositions, soon establishing himself as the "King of the Waltz". Among the numerous works of his that were premiered at "Dommayer" were the "Debut-Quadrille", op. 2, the "Amazonen-Polka" and "Muthig voran!" All of these works appeared on the New Year's Concert program for the first time this year. The Casino Dommayer was in a prominent location close to Schönbrunn Palace, thus inspiring the most famous waltz by Joseph Lanner, "Die Schönbrunner". This composition was also included in the first part of the New Year's Concert 2011.
The performance of the flamboyant Csárdás from "Ritter Pasman" was a reminder that Johann Strauss' only opera was premiered at the Vienna Court Opera in 1892, and also provided a transition to a tribute to Franz Liszt. When, for the commemoration of Wolfgang Mozart's 100th birthday on January 27/28, 1856, Liszt, an artist who fascinated all of Europe, conducted two special concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic, Johann Strauss, Jr. dedicated to him a new waltz, "Abschieds-Rufe (Farewell Wishes)". In so doing, Strauss followed the example of his father, Johann Strauss Sr., who had earlier, in 1839, displayed his veneration for the great artist by composing the "Fürioso Gallop" on Motives by Liszt. This work appeared on the New Year Concert program for the third time, having been performed previously in 1999 and 2007. These tributes from the two "Waltz Kings" were followed by a composition of Franz Liszt which represents a treatment of one of music's most fascinating phenomena, the "Mephisto Waltz No. 1".
In the summer of 1869, when Johann Strauss made his 11th trip to Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg, he insisted that his brother, Josef, accompany him to alternate with him the conducting of the concerts there. Josef Strauss was in ill health and to be separated from his wife and daughter for several months was extremely difficult for him. Shortly after his arrival in Pavlovsk, he vented his feelings in a polka mazur entitled "Aus der Ferne (From Afar)". Caroline Strauss understood what her husband was saying, having at the around the same time sent her the lines: "Always with you, ever by you, eternally for you!" Perhaps the most ingenious member of the Strauss musical dynasty, he died one year later, shortly before his 43rd birthday. In the New Year's Concert 2011, this touching musical declaration of love provided the transition to a journey to the Iberian Peninsula. Between the elegant "Spanish March" by Johann Strauss Jr. and the "Cachucha-Galopp", inspired by the legendary dancer, Fanny Elßler (1810-1884), by Johann Strauss Sr., the "Gypsy Dance" from the ballet, "The Pearl of Iberia" by Josef Hellmesberger was performed. Hellmesberger became a first violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic at the age of 14, later became concertmaster, and between 1901 and 1903, was the conductor of the Philharmic subscription concert series, as well as serving as the chairman of the orchestra.
"Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb und Lust", one of the greatest concert waltzes of all time, ended the official program of the New Year's Concert 2011. The optimism and verve so convincingly displayed in this work were indicative of our good wishes in the New Year for our partner in this concert, Franz Welser-Möst, in his function as the new General Music Director of the Vienna State Opera. before the traditional obligatory encores of the "Blue Danube Waltz" and the "Radetzky March", the performance of the fast polka "Ohne Aufenthalt", by Eduard Strauss as the first encore of the New Year's Concert 2011 completed the program, as it ensured that all members of the Strauss dynasty were represented in this year's concert.
As was the case in the years 2009 and 2010, ROLEX was the exclusive sponsor of the concert, and the worldwide television marketing was once again under the auspices of the Lucerne based T.E.A.M. Marketing AG. At the press conference of the Vienna Philharmonic on December 27, 2010, in addition to Franz Welser-Möst and ORF General Director Dr. Alexander Wrabetz, Emil Steffec, Chairman of the Association of Viennese Gardeners represented the mayor of San Remo. For the past 30 years, this "City of Flowers" on the Rivera has provided the floral decorations for the Golden Hall of the Musikverein which are then arranged by the Viennese gardeners and florists. The press conference followed a "Media Day" for commentators from diverse international televison and radio stations. The ORF aired the New Year's Concert for the 53rd time, and with the assistance of the European Broadcasting Union, the broadcast was viewed in 74 countries. In Austria, the concert was viewed by 1.17 million people, which represents a national marketing of 65%.
As in prior years, the New Year's and New Year's Eve Concerts were preceded by the Preview Performance on December 30th, in which the upper level of the Golden Hall is reserved for the members of the Austrian Armed Forces. The proceeds from the sale of seats on the ground floor for this concert in the amount of €100.000 were once again donated by the Philharmonic to the charitable organisation "Licht ins Dunkel", which channelled this donation to the Association HPE (Help for Relatives of the Mentally Ill), the SOS Kinderdorf in Vienna, as well as the Catastrophe Fund for Austrian Women and the Vienna Hilfswerk.