NEW YEAR'S CONCERT 2012
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G. STRAVINSKY: Tango (piano version/orch. version).
WEILL: Surabaya Johnny. TangoBallad. DE SABATA: Mile e Una Notte
KORNGOLD: Die Stumme Serenade
The 2012 VPO New Year's Concert (the 72nd) was of particular interest. Mariss Jansons was on the podium for the first time since 2006, and the orchestra was at its finest, which is as good as it gets. The concert opens with a rousing performance of Patriotic March by Johann II and Josef Strauss, only one of several works receiving their premieres at these concerts. Particularly enchanging is the delightful Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop by Hans Christian Lumbye. High spirits prevail throughout, and the Berlin Teldex Studio audio is stunning. The concert, which was seen by millions world-wide, is available on two CDs, or DVD and DVD Blu Ray. All are budget-price issues, and I'd suggest the Blu Ray version for a stunning video/audio experience.
Another view of Viennese music can be sampled on Sony's Waltz Revolution CD set with Nikolaus Harnoncourt directing Concentus Musicus Wien in music of three composers as listed above. Beautifully played by Concentus Musicus on period instruments utilizing original scoring, this is quite a contrast to the lush sounds of the Vienna Philharmonic in this repertory. Excellent audio, but rather short value in playing time. Much more music could have been included—but the two disks sell for the price of one.
Decca calls their new Ravel, Stravinsky, Weill, and De Sabata CD "Sounds of the 30s." Notes talk about Ravel's fascination with Gershwin, particularly Rhapsody in Blue, and we also have two versions of Stravinsky's Tango, and two Kurt Weill pieces are also included. The oddest, and major work on the disk, is a ballet suite composed in 1931 by Victor De Sabata, one of the most revered conductors of the time, a 27-minute suite that includes a waltz, two tangos, and a foxtrot. A previous recording of Mile e Una Notte was mentioned on this site (REVIEW). Also there is a Naxos CD of De Sabata as a conductor (REVIEW). Recently this site mentioned an excellent Gershwin CD featuring Stefano Bollani again with Chailly (REVIEW). The same quality marks this new release, although the pianist's performance of Ravel's masterpiece doesn't match competing recordings by Argerich, Françoise, Grimaud, and Thibaudet, to mention only a few. Chailly is right at home in the richly-scored ballet suite; it would have been helpful is producers had supplied separate tracks for each movement.
Any major work of Erich Wolfgang Korngold is of interest, but it is understandable that his last stage work remains virtually unknown. Die Stumme Serenade ("The Silent Serenade") dates from the late '40s, a two-act comedy that is an unsuccessful attempt at operetta. The work received two performances, in 1951 and 1953, with unfavorable reviews.The stupid plot focuses on mistaken identity, taking place in Naples in the 1820s. The beautiful Silvia Lambardi is to marry Lugarini, the prime minister—but a mysterious nocturnal intruder appears pledging his love; he is Andrea Coclé, her servant. The convoluted plot includes a bumbling police officer, and an octogenarian King, but all ends happily. There is much dialogue, most of which is tracked separately so if you wish you could skip it. The performance by the Young Opera Company is expert, but Korngold's music only has brief traces to indicate his authorship. This first complete recording is welcome as a document, but don't expect the operatic glories of Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, Das Wunder Der Heliane, or any of his film scores. You can see a brief fine performance of a brief excerpt from Die Stumme Serenade on YOUTUBE
R.E.B. (May 2012)