Johann Strauss Junior : Napoleon-Marsch, opus 156 – Orpheus-Quadrille, opus 236 – «Indigo und die vierzig Räuber» (Overture) – Freuet euch des Lebens, opus 340 – Bluette, opus 271 – Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka, opus 214 – Russischer Marsch, opus 426 – Die Pariserin, opus 238 – Kaiser-Walzer, opus 437 – Die Bajadere, opus 351 – An der schönen, blauen Donau, opus 314
Josef Strauss : Dorfschwalben aus Österreich, opus 164 – Laxenburger-Polka, opus 60 – Die Libelle, opus 204 – Sport-Polka, opus 170
Joseph Hellmesberger Junior : Kleiner Anzeiger, opus 4
Johann Strauss Senior : Paris Walzer, opus 101 – Versailler-Galopp, opus 107 – Chineser-Galopp, opus 20 – Radetzky-Marsch, opus 228
Josef Lanner : Hofball-Tänze, opus 161
Vienna Philharmonic, Georges Prêtre (conductor)
Recorded live at the Musikverein, Vienna (January 1, 2008) – 110’
2 CD Set DECCA B0010611-02 (Distributed by Universal Music Classical) – Booklet in English
One might initially be surprised to find Maestro Georges Prêtre leading the Vienna Philharmonic in the annual New Year’s Concert but his ties to Vienna go back as early as 1962, when at the invitation of Herbert von Karajan he conducted to great acclaim performances of Richard Strauss’s Capriccio at the venerable old house on the Ringstrasse. So marked was his success that he was invited back to conduct Gounod’s Faust the next season. On the day of the opening of Faust, Hans Knappertsbusch took ill. At a moment’s notice Prêtre stepped in to lead the Vienna Philharmonic in a fiery performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, thus making two debuts on the same day! Since that time he has been a regular guest conductor in Vienna. Maestro Prêtre says of himself: “With the passage of time, even I have become a little bit Viennese.”
Prêtre’s approach to these delightful bon-bonsI is sparkling and exhilarating like a good bottle of champagne. If you are familiar with this music in the hands of Lorin Maazel or Herbert von Karajan, you will find that Georges Prêtre has a decidedly less heavy hand. In fact much of this music was originally composed for salon orchestra rather than a philharmonic and Maestro Prêtre’s lighter touch provides a new color that is at once both refreshing and revealing. My only complaint is that I did not have on hand a bottle of champagne or some strudel to enjoy while listening to this distinctly gay and exhilarating romp.
Of particular interest to aficionados will be Maestro Prêtre’s introduction of no less than six premieres at this concert…all with a “French” persuasion. Johann Strauss Senior’s Valse de Paris and the Galop de Versailles are charming rarities. But Johann Strauss Junior’s Marche de Napoléon and La Parisienne-Polka Française are indeed real curiosities. More fascinating still is Strauss Junior’s Orphée Quadrille based on paraphrases from Offenbach’s operetta. In fact it contains a version of the famous Can Can, which Strauss entitled Galop Infernal.
Of course the concert contains standard Strauss favorites like the Emperor Waltz, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, and the Radetzky March. All are given highly polished and lilting performances. The Viennese audience was obviously delighted throughout and rewards the Philharmonic and Maestro Prêtre with prolonged vociferous applause and many shouts of “Bravo!”