This is one of the long series of New Year's Day concerts from Vienna. It follows the usual, and well-tried format, and delivers the usual reliable level of Viennese prowess. With this concert, Harnoncourt makes his second New Year's Day appearance and, typical of Harnoncourt, he brings his usual somewhat analytical mind to bear plus an interest in items that have not been featured before.
Included in these new items are two Brahms Hungarian Dances plus Weber's Invitation to the Dance which is one of the earliest examples of Viennese waltz time within a stand-alone composition. Harnoncourt himself has a considerable Viennese pedigree having been brought up there, having played cello in the VPO in earlier days and having direct links back to Clemens Krauss and knowledge of the music within the context of real dancing.
As a result we are treated to a serious attempt to recreate the music within its original context in terms of tempo etc. Everything is clearly laid out for us to hear and the orchestra have obviously been well rehearsed to deliver this. What is missing, it seems to me, is the sheer sense of 'joie de vivre' and this can be picked up by the lack of the smiles and glances which normally flicker around the orchestra on such occasions. There is also a noticeable absence of the cheering and the more vocal expressions of approval from the audience as the concert progresses. Even an item such as the Bauern-Polka with its vocal contributions from the orchestra fails to illicit these responses and instead it simply comes over as particularly well-drilled.
There are several short bonuses in the form of films showing the journey of the Danube, the trick fountains of the Hellbrunn Palace and the Chinese chambers at the Schonbrunn Palace plus ballet danced to the music.
The recording is well up to the usual high standards of the Brian Large team with clear imaging and sound presented in DD 5.0, DTS 5.0 and stereo. This is satisfyingly full-ranged.
In summary therefore, a good concert but with a touch of the didactic about it. I personally would have preferred more sparkle and spontaneity such as we have heard from Karajan, Ozawa, Muti, Pretre and Barenboim to name but a few. Purchasers collecting the whole set will no doubt find this sufficiently interesting to add to their collection but for those wanting an example of these concerts I would suggest investigating others from the series in preference. This is, of course, just a personal opinion from one who has purchased many Viennese concerts plus others by Harnoncourt in the past. I think a fair rating would be 4 stars - good but not definitive.