There are few concerts in the world that are awaited with as much excitement as the New Year's Concert from Vienna. Under the direction of Christian Thielemann, the Vienna Philharmonic ushered in the New Year 2019 with a concert in the magnificent Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein.
The concert was broadcast on TV and Radio to over ninety countries all around the world, reaching an audience of more than 50 million people.
The 2019 New Year's Concert was conducted for the first time by Christian Thielemann. A native of Berlin, Thielemann has been a regular and welcome guest of the Vienna Philharmonic since 2000, with the result that his first New Year's Concert may be seen as setting an example and providing an appropriate tribute to his previous work with the orchestra. According to the orchestra's chairman, Daniel Froschauer, orchestra and musicians trust each other completely: "The profound musical understanding and trust that have existed from the outset and that have always functioned perfectly have subsequently borne remarkable fruit in the symphonic repertory as well".
New Year's Concert 2019
Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922)
1. Schönfeld-Marsch, Op.422*
Josef Strauss (1827-1870)
2. Transactionen, Op.184
Josef Hellmesberger II (1855-1907)
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
4. Express, Op.311*
5. Nordseebilder, Op.390
Eduard Strauss (1835-1916)
6. Mit Extrapost, Op.259
Johann Strauss II
7. Der Zigeunerbaron: Ouvertüre
8. Die Tänzerin Op.227*
Johann Strauss II
9. Künstlerleben, Op.316
10. Die Bajadere, Op.351
11. Opern-Soirée, Op.162*
Johann Strauss II
12. Ritter Pásmán
15. Egyptischer Marsch, Op.335
Josef Hellmesberger II
Johann Strauss II
17. Lob der Frauen, Op.315
18. Sphärenklänge, Op.235
Johann Strauss II
19. Im Sturmschritt, Op.348
21. An der schönen blauen Donau, Op.314
Johann Strauss I (1804-1849)
22. Radetzky Marsch, Op.228
(Arrangement: Leopold Weninger)
Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Live Recording: Goldener Saal of the Wiener Musikverein, January 1, 2019
* First performance at a New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic
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The Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concert is being conducted for the first time by Christian Thielemann in 2019. Thielemann has been closely associated with the orchestra since 2000 and has distinguished himself in music by the Strauss family at least since 2008, when he opened that year's Philharmonic Ball.
This year's programme begins with a march by Carl Michael Ziehrer dedicated to – and named after – Anton von Schönfeld, who was General of the Artillery and General Inspector of Troops in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As music director of the Fourth Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment – also known as the Hochund Deutschmeister – Ziehrer was one of those military bandmasters who additionally wrote music in the final decades of the Habsburg monarchy, in which capacity he also gave public concerts with his orchestra.
Josef Strauss wrote his waltz Transactionen (Transactions) in the summer of 1865 for a benefit concert in the Imperial and Royal People's Park in Vienna, after which he left for an urgently needed holiday. Its title harks back to his Action Waltz from the previous Carnival. In 2019 the title Transactions is also a suitable motto for the 150th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Austria and Japan. When the Meiji dynasty came to power in Japan in 1868, it ended the country's traditional isolation and introduced a far-reaching programme of reforms at home. A prominent role in this process was played by the introduction of western music, which primarily meant German and Austrian music. The first Austrian soloists appeared in Japan, and in 1888, on the recommendation of Vienna's Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Bruckner's pupil Rudolf Dittrich was named director of the newly founded State Academy of Music in Tokyo. Three years later the first Japanese student – Nobu Koda – enrolled at the Gesellschaft's Conservatory. The Vienna Philharmonic first went on tour to Japan in 1956 under Paul Hindemith and since then has visited the country no fewer than thirty-six times, enjoying a degree of popularity with local audiences that can only be expressed in superlatives. Transactionen was even heard in Japan in 1983 and 1986. Since 1978 the New Year's Concert has been broadcast in Japan, making it an integral part of Austro-Japanese musical relations. Strangely enough, it was on 19 May that the Japanese broadcaster NHK first showed a New Year's Concert from Vienna. Mono broadcasts on 1 January began in 1984, and since 1987 the concerts have been relayed live in stereo on both television and radio.
It was Josef Hellmesberger (II) who was instrumental in ensuring Dittrich's appointment in Japan. "Pepi" Hellmesberger held a variety of posts in the musical life of Vienna: as solo violinist in the Court Opera Orchestra and with the Vienna Philharmonic, Court Kapellmeister, Mahler's successor as conductor of the Philharmonic's subscription concerts, and professor of violin at the Gesellschaft's Conservatory. During his period of military service he had also been the concertmaster of the Hoch- und Deutschmeister regiment. His gossamer-light Elfenreigen (Elfin Dance) was written in 1903 within the context of his work at the Court Opera.
Johann Strauss' polka schnell Express was written in the wake of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, a war lost with remarkable speed by the Austrian army, but no one listening to this piece would guess its bellicose background. In the aftermath of the war, the Strauss brothers launched their Viennese season only in the late autumn. First performed in the People's Garden, the Express polka strikes a demonstratively carefree note.
In the late 1870s Strauss, recently remarried, spent his summer vacations on the North Frisian island of Föhr, where the couple were treated as celebrities. Husum's mayor, for example, insisted on writing a poem in honour of Strauss' new wife, Angelika. Their 1879 visit to the island found expression in the elaborate tone-painterly waltz Nordseebilder (Pictures of the North Sea) that was premiered by Eduard Strauss in Vienna's Musikvereinssaal the following autumn. Curiously enough, the title-page of the printed edition does not depict a low-lying beach lapped by the waves of the North Sea as suggested by the introduction and first waltz theme but a gloomy fjord of a kind that the widely travelled Strauss never saw. The great Austro-Hungarian expedition to the North Pole – rather than the North Sea – had taken place only a few years earlier, resulting not least in the Arctic archipelago being named Franz Josef Land, a name that it retains to this day.
Eduard Strauss' polka schnell Mit Extrapost (Post-Haste) dates from the final phase of the Strauss Orchestra's existence and refers to what was then the fastest form of horse-drawn transport. But by the date of its first performance in 1887 this form of transport was already becoming an anachronism. For decades relatively lengthy sections of a journey could be covered more quickly and more comfortably by rail, a mode of transport that the Strauss brothers used extensively, while in 1888 Bertha Benz ushered in the age of the automobile with her exhibition ride from Mannheim to Pforzheim.
By the time that Johann Strauss' operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) was first performed at Vienna's Theater an der Wien in 1885, it could look back on a lengthy genesis, having begun life as a Hungarian comic opera before finally mutating into an operetta set in the region between the multi-ethnic border area of the Banat of Temeswar and Vienna. Both of these worlds can already be identified in the potpourri overture: on the one hand we have contrastive minorkey tonalities, syncopations and the sounds of the cimbalom, and on the other the waltz "Nach dem schönen Wien / Zieht mich Herz und Sinn" (Heart and mind draw me to beautiful Vienna), which revels in string sonorities and major-key tonalities. The action unfolds against the historically inaccurate background of the War of the Austrian Succession and required an external enemy to restore unity to Austria-Hungary, which at the time of the work’s first performance was already beginning to fracture in spite of the political settlement, or Ausgleich, of 1867.
Josef Strauss' polka française Die Tänzerin (The Ballerina) was written for the New World in 1867, although in this case the New World was not the Americas but a pleasure dome with music pavilions not far from Schönbrunn Palace in the up-market district of Hietzing. Although contemporary audiences enjoyed Die Tänzerin, the work failed to maintain a place for itself in the repertory and in 2019 it is being heard for the first time at one of the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concerts.
The whole of 1867 was overshadowed by Austria's defeat at the hands of the Prussians in the previous year's Seven Weeks' War. Many of Vienna's traditional balls had to be abandoned, but in spite of this, the Artists' Association Hesperus invited Johann Strauss to write a particularly elegant and perhaps less boisterous waltz for its ball in the Diana Hall. Titled Künstlerleben (Artists' Life), it was premiered three days after the Blue Danube waltz. Strauss took it with him to the World Fair in Paris in 1867, an event that provided the militarily weakened Habsburg monarchy with a welcome opportunity to return to the international stage. Strauss' first wife, Henriette, wrote home to report on the concerts in Paris: "People here are simply mad about this Viennese music".
Viennese audiences, conversely, were so spoilt by this music that Strauss' first operetta, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), encountered a relatively lukewarm response when it was premiered in February 1871, a response due above all to its libretto. By contrast, his polka schnell Die Bajadere (The Bayadère), which comprises the coda to the ballet music and motifs from the second and third acts, was greeted with great enthusiasm when it was performed for the first time at a concert with the Strauss Orchestra under Eduard Strauss in the People's Park in Vienna. The concert also included a scene from Meyerbeer's grand opera Les Huguenots and the overture from Wagner's opera Rienzi.
The world premiere of Eduard Strauss' polka française Opern-Soirée (Opera Soirée) in December 1877 was reported by the Wiener Zeitung: "Johann Strauss had scarcely laid aside his baton when Eduard Strauss appeared on the platform in order to take it up himself. This was the sign for the ball to begin, the second and most eagerly awaited part of the programme". This first ball by the Court Opera artists in the opera house on the Ring – the building is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019 – was the forerunner of today's Vienna Opera Ball. By imperial decree audiences were supposed to restrict themselves to listening to the music, but under Eduard Strauss the space was abruptly cleared for dancing, with the Strauss Orchestra replacing the Court Opera Orchestra. As a result the Vienna Philharmonic is performing the Opern-Soirée polka for the first time at its 2019 New Year's Concert.
Conversely, it was the Vienna Philharmonic in its capacity as the Court Opera Orchestra that did the honours at the first performance of Johann Strauss' Ritter Pásmán (Knight Pázmán) on 1 January 1892, when the composer himself conducted the work. Viennese reactions to his only actual opera were among the greatest disappointments of his life. This time it was not just the banal plot to which audiences took exception – the action revolves around an extramarital kiss – but also the piece's failure to conform to expectations of what a "comic opera" should be. Among the scenes to which audiences responded more favourably was the waltz song sung by Eva – the wife of Knight Pázmán and the recipient of the harmless kiss – in Act Two. The version of the Eva Waltz that was played at a military concert only two days after the premiere of the opera itself at the Court Opera was prepared by the conductor Josef Schlar, who was Strauss' assistant at the Court Opera but whose arrangement failed to meet with the composer's approval.
If Ritter Pásmán was a flop, Strauss' Csárdás remains one of the most popular of his compositions. This rhythmically accentuated dance derives its name from the Hungarian word for a country inn (csárda) but was widely found in the traditional music of the Roma in neighbouring countries as well. Its roots lie in the verbunkos of 18th-century taverns, where soldiers were conscripted into the Habsburg army.
Whereas Hungarian elements are frequently found in Strauss' music, his Egyptian March had little to do with Egypt, at least initially. Written at Pavlovsk near St Petersburg in the summer of 1869, it reflects the orientalism that was then in vogue. Within days of its first performance it was being repeated under the new name of the Circassian March but it soon reverted to its original title, a change presumably undertaken within the context of the sensational opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869, an event that excited international attention.
In addition to his many other appointments in Vienna, Josef Hellmesberger was also active as a composer and conductor of ballets. His librettist Leopold Krenn reports that "Hellmesberger wrote music with astonishing facility. Whenever the director of the Court Opera, Wilhelm Jahn, accepted a ballet and it turned out that an additional number was needed, Hellmesberger was able to provide entire divertissements within only a couple of days". His Entr'acte Waltz must have been used on several occasions, both as ballet music and in the concert hall. It is contained in a suite of ballet numbers published in 1905, where it appears under the title Tanz auf der Spitze (Dancing en Pointe).
With Johann Strauss' polka mazur Lob der Frauen (In Praise of Women), the 2019 New Year's Concert returns to the 1867 Paris World Fair. For his guest performances Strauss relied on the support of the Austrian ambassador, Prince Metternich, and his wife Pauline. He had also made contact with Benjamin Bilse, who had played in his father's orchestra in 1842 before running his own orchestra in Silesia and Berlin. It was from the Berlin-based Bilse'sche Kapelle that the Berlin Philharmonic emerged in 1882. In 1867 Strauss and Bilse shared the conducting of the latter's orchestra. Among the works Strauss performed was Lob der Frauen, which had first been heard at the Vienna Carnival earlier that same year.
If the official part of Christian Thielemann's programme for his first New Year's Concert ends with Josef Strauss' waltz Sphärenklänge (Music of the Spheres), then this makes logical sense since its introduction contains a number of reminiscences of Wagner. After all, Thielemann is only the second conductor in the history of the Bayreuth Festival to have conducted all the canonical works there. With their distant echo of Act Three of Tannhäuser, the opening bars also recall the fact that the Strauss Orchestra was performing excerpts from Wagner's operas and music dramas at its concerts long before these works had entered the Court Opera repertory. Josef Strauss wrote this waltz for the Medics' Ball in 1868. This circumstance is referenced in the title inasmuch as Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher who advanced the geocentric theory of concentric celestial bodies sounding together in particular mathematical relationships, was also a physician in the widest sense of the term. But according to a local newspaper, the Fremden-Blatt, the medically trained audience at the first performance of Josef Strauss' waltz heard neither Wagner nor the heavenly constellations in the opening chords but the afterlife. Yet this five-part series of waltzes soon livens up and gives us every reason to assume that the case is by no means hopeless.
Source: Silvia Kargl and Friedemann Pestel (CD Booklet)
The German conductor Christian Thielemann (b. 1959, West Berlin) studied viola and piano at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin and took private lessons in composition and conducting before becoming répétiteur aged 19 at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with Heinrich Hollreiser and working as Herbert von Karajan's assistant. He worked at a number of smaller German theatres including the Musiktheater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen, in Karlsruhe, Hanover, at Düsseldorf's Deutsche Oper am Rhein as First Kapellmeister and in Nürnberg as Generalmusikdirektor before returning to the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1991 to conduct Wagner's Lohengrin. During this time he also assisted Daniel Barenboim at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
Christian Thielemann's 1991-1992 season debut in the USA, conducting a new production of Strauss' Elektra in San Francisco was soon followed by engagements at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1997, he became Generalmusikdirektor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. A report in 2000 stated that Thielemann was to leave the Deutsche Oper in 2001 over artistic conflicts with the then-incoming artistic director Udo Zimmermann. He remained with the company until 2004, when he resigned over conflicts regarding Berlin city funding between the Deutsche Oper and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
Christian Thielemann became Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Münchner Philharmoniker in September 2004. He stepped down from his Munich post in 2011, after disputes with orchestra management over final approval of selection of guest conductors and programs for the orchestra. In October 2009, the Sächsische Saatskapelle Dresden announced the appointment of Thielemann as its next Chief Conductor, effective with the 2012-2013 season. His current contract with Saatskapelle Dresden was through 2019. In November 2017, the Saatskapelle Dresden announced the extension of his contract as Chief Conductor through July 31, 2024. He has also been Artistic Director of the Salzburg Easter Festival since 2013, where the Saatskapelle Dresden is resident orchestra.
Christian Thielemann is a regular conductor at the Bayreuth Festival, following his début in 2000 with Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and at the Salzburg Festival. He has returned to Bayreuth Festival every year to thrill audiences with groundbreaking interpretations. With the decision in September 2008 of the Richard Wagner Festival Foundation to appoint Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier to succeed Wolfgang Wagner as directors of the Bayreuth Festival, Thielemann was named Musical Advisor. In June 2015, the Bayreuth Festival formally announced the appointment of Thielemann as its Music Director. He is due to conduct the Wiener Philharmoniker.
Christian Thielemann has contributed to the birthday celebrations for Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss with numerous Saatskapelle Dresden concerts in the Semperoper and on tour. His programmes have also featured a wide range of music from J.S. Bach to Henze, Rihm and Sofia Gubaidulina. He conducted new productions of Manon Lescaut, Simon Boccanegra, Elektra and Der Frei schütz as well as two complete performances of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in Dresden. In Salzburg he directed the premieres of Parsifal, Arabella, Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci, Otello, Die Walküre and Tosca.
Christian Thielemann maintains close ties to the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Wiener Philharmoniker, whose New Year's Concert he will conduct in 2019 for the very first time. Much in demand as a versatile concert conductor, he has collaborated with the world's leading orchestras as Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, London, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra, and has also performed in Israel, Japan and China.
As a Unitel exclusive artist, Christian Thielemann has a comprehensive catalogue of recordings. His most recent ventures have been the recordings of Anton Bruckner's Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3-9, a complete cycle of the symphonies and solo concertos of Johannes Brahms as well as the operas Der Freischütz, Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci, Elektra, Die Walküre and Lohengrin for CD or DVD. With the Staatskapelle Dresden he has recorded symphonic works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Anton Bruckner, Max Reger, Hans Pfitzner and Ferruccio Busoni as well as various New Year's Eve Concerts released on DVD. He has recorded all of Beethoven's symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
In 2003, Christian Thielemann was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz). In October 2011, he received honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music in London. He holds honorary doctorates from the Franz Liszt College of Music in Weimar and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. In May 2015, he won the Richard Wagner Award (Richard-Wagner-Preis) of Leipzig, followed by the prize of the Semperoper Trust in October 2016. He served as the Humanitas Visiting Professor in Opera Studies at Oxford University in January 2016.
Staatskapelle Dresden. New Year's Eve Concert 2015 – Lang Lang, Rinat Shaham, Lucas Meachem, Christian Thielemann (HD 1080p)
Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs & Alpine Symphony – Anja Harteros, Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann