JOHANN STRAUSS JR.:  Jubilee March for the Return of Emperor Franz Joseph I.  Treasure Waltz.  Niko-Polka.  Joke Polka.  Seconds Polka.  Hellenen Polka.  Emperor Waltz.  Peasants' Polka.  Praise of Women.  Coronation Songs.  Light of Heart Polka.  Furioso Polka. The Blue Danube Waltz.  JOHANN STRAUSS I:  Chinese Galop.  Radetzky March.  JOSEF STRAUSS:  Delirium Waltz.  WEBER-BERLIOZ:  Invitation to the Dance.  BRAHMS:  Hungarian Dances 5 and 6.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 250 (2 CDs) TT:  48:40 & 57:25

Same program as above on DVD with special features
TDK DVUS-WPNK03 TT: 122 min (concert) 27 min (features)

DG rushed to issue this widely-publicized 2003 New Years Day concert; it was available just a few weeks after the event.  It is admirable in every way—although some may find Harnoncourt's conducting rather cool. Engineeing is just fine, quite close-up with a minimum of resonance. There is a mystery when one compares the CD and DVD versions.  There was some talk at the time of the supposedly sophisticated Viennese audience applauding before Invitation to the Dance was over. Of course, the piece has a trick ending—it sounds as if it is over but there is a repeat of the soft opening with its cello soloMost sophisticated concertgoers know this and hold their applause—and look scournfully at those uneducated listeners who thought the music was over. On the telecast mosst of the Viennese audience didn't know and Harnoncourt just kept conducting over the ill-timed applause—what else could he do?  But in the DVD version there is no applause at the wrong time.  Just how did director Brian Large manage this?  There was only one performance. (NOTE: Since this was written we have found that there actually are three presentations of the New Year's Concert. Doubtless the audience at a later performance was warned about the "false ending" and told not to applaud—and this was dubbed in).

The DVD version has fine surround sound, magnificent photography, and almost a half-hour of special photographic features for some of the music played at the concert including impressions of the Danube river, a fascinating montage of the "trick fountains" at Hellbrunn Palace, and performances by the Vienna State Opera and Kirov ballets.  Well done, and a fine memento of the 2003 New Year's Concert.

R.E.B. (April 2003)