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As in 2006, Mariss Jansons, who made his debut with our orchestra in April 1992, conducted the New Year's Concert on January 1, 2012. As has been the case in recent years, the program for this concert featured several "story lines". The opening consisted of a joint composition by Johann and Joseph Strauss, "Vaterländisches Marsch (Fatherland March)", which was performed for the first time during a New Year's Concert. While the charm of this music lies in the two brothers' paying tribute to their father by quoting his "Radetzky March" in their own, the circumstances surrounding the composition of their march were exceedingly tragic: on April 29, 1859, the Austria-Hungarian attack on the forces of Piedmont-Sardinia triggered a bloody war which, as is so often the case in human history, was preceded by great patriotic fervour from which the Strauss Orchestra was not exempt.
The first part of the New Year's Concert 2012 was characterised by two diverse, though congenial, rivalries - one musical and one athletic. When the opening ball in the new Viennese City Hall took place on February 12, 1890, Johann Strauss as well as Carl Michael Ziehrer both composed new waltzes for the occasion. In his "City Hall Ball Dances", Johann Strauss juxtaposed the melodies of the official and the unofficial anthems of his homeland by quoting Joseph Haydn's "Gott erhalte (God Save)", and his own "Blue Danube" waltz, thus accentuating the symphonic character appearing ever increasingly in his great concert waltzes. In contrast to this, Carl Michael Ziehrer wrote "Wiener Bürger (Viennese Folk)", a captivating dance waltz par excellence, which, on that evening, received more acclaim than the "Waltz King" himself. The titles of the two fast polkas, "Entweder - Oder (Either - Or)" (which along with the "City Hall Ball Dances" appeared for the first time on the program of a New Year's Concert) and "Tritsch-Tratsch (Chit-Chat)" were placed between the two waltzes mentioned above, serving to symbolize the tension before the decision of the audience.
The two pieces concluding the first half of the program called attention to the athletic highpoint of 2012, the Olympic Games in London. The "Albion-Polka" by Johann Strauss was dedicated to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the husband of the English Queen Victoria, which had its premiere in the Viennese Coburg Palace. With his "Jockey-Polka" Joseph Strauss musically portrayed his beloved sport of horse racing. At the premiere of this work, as part of a benefit concert with Johann, Joseph and Eduard Strauss on March 13, 1870 in the Golden Hall, Joseph, who was the most sensitive and introverted member of this unique composer dynasty, was clearly the audience's favourite, over and above his brothers.
The second half of the concert opened with "Danse diabolique (Devilish Dance)", a work of virtuosity and brilliance, composed by the former first violinist, concertmaster and conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr. This piece had previously been performed with great success in the New Year's concert of 2002. The next two pieces on the program alluded to the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, builder and owner of the celebrated Musikverein, with its world renowned Golden Hall, which celebrates its bicentennial in 2012. On January 15, 1870, nine days following the opening of this building, the Society gave a ball for which Joseph Strauss composed the polka française "Künstler Gruss (Artists Greeting)" and Johann Strauss, the waltz, "Freuet euch des Lebens (Enjoy Life)". Both works served as a tribute to the achievements of this institution, which have been so significant for music history over the course of 200 years.
"Sperl-Galopp", one of the most beloved compositions of Johann Strauss, Sr., provided the transition to a composition with reference to current politics. On January 1, 2012, Denmark assumed the chairmanship of the Council of the European Union, and for this reason, the "Copenhagen Steam Railway Gallop" by Hans Christian Lumbye was performed for the first time on the New Year's Concert. This Danish composer, who was inspired by Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr., founded his own orchestra and enjoyed such a success, that he became known as the "Strauss of the North".
The next seven compositions drew loose connections with the life of Mariss Jansons, who was born in Riga in 1943, studied in Leningrad and Vienna and whose home is in St. Petersburg. During Joseph Strauss' "Fireproof", Jansons not only conducted the Vienna Boys Choir, but also played the anvil. The "Carmen Quadrille" by Eduard Strauss called to mind the 2010 production of George Bizet's Carmen, which was to be Jansons' debut at the Vienna State Opera, but which he was forced to cancel due to illness. The "Pizzicato Polka", the "Persian March", and "Burning Love" all recalled the association that the Strauss family also had with St. Petersburg. Between 1856 and 1859, Johann Strauss, Jr. gave regular concerts there, celebrating legendary successes. Joseph Strauss, against his will, was coerced repeatedly into joining his brother there, because the "Waltz King" was unable to handle all the work alone, being expected not only to conduct concerts but also to write new compositions especially for St. Petersburg, such as the three named above. The two central works of this Mariss Jansons/St. Petersburg group were written by the composer who employed the waltz form more often than any other of the great symphonists, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. With "Panorama" and the waltz from "Sleeping Beauty", Tchaikovsky appears for the first time on the program of the New Year's Concert.
Two masterpieces composed by the Strauss brothers, the waltz "Delirien", op. 212, by Joseph as well as Johann's fast polka, "Unter Donner und Blitz", op. 324, concluded the official part of the program, which was followed by the encores "Tik-Tak-Polka", op. 365, the "Blue Danube" waltz and "Radetzky March" by Johann Strauss.-
Since 2009, ROLEX has been the exclusive sponsor of the New Year's Concert, with world-wide marketing being carried out, as in the last few years, by T.E.A.M. Marketing AG, based in Lucerne. At the Vienna Philharmonic press conference on December 28, 2011, Mariss Jansons, Gerald Wirth, ORF General Director Dr. Alexander Wrabetz and Dr. Bettina Brinkmann, as representative of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) took part. The press conference was followed by a "Media Day" for journalists from diverse foreign television and radio networks. The ORF broadcast the New Year's Concert for the 54th time (this year under the direction of Karina Fibich) and with the cooperation of the EBU the concert was broadcast in 73 countries. In Austria it was seen by 1.15 million viewers, which represents a national market share of 62 %, and a rating of 4.8).
As usual the New Year's Concert was preceded by the New Year's Eve Concert and the Preview Performance on December 30, 2011. For the Premiere Performance, the upper half of the Golden Hall was reserved for the Austrian Armed Forces and of the proceeds from the sale of ground floor tickets €100,000.00 were donated by the orchestra to charity, with half going to Amnesty International and the other half to "Licht ins Dunkel" which channelled the donation to "die möwe" - Child Protection Centers, Save the Children Austria and the Catastrophe Fund for Austrian Women.- Dr. Clemens Hellsberg