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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 February 2012
Karajan had a long standing affinity with the music of the Strauss family, recording it frequently throughout his long career. His first stereo recordings with Decca in the late 1950's were Also Sprach Zarathustra, Die Fledermaus and a Strauss Collection including Tales of the Vienna Woods with the zither played by Anton Karas, composer of the music for The Third Man, all Strauss though from different families!
He had never before conducted the New Year's Concert, as although there was no such concert in Berlin, there was a New Year's Eve Gala Concert which he conducted every year, thus preventing him from conducting in Vienna.
In any event, the Vienna concerts were lead by Concert Master Willi Boskovsky right up until the late 70's. These concerts were not recorded and released because Decca had exclusive recording rights over the Vienna Philharmonic and refused to record in the Musikverein on the grounds that it was a "difficult acoustic". This was disingenuous, as it really meant that Decca would not alter their microphone placements to accommodate the acoustic!
Boskovsky's last concert was recorded live by Decca, and a very poor show they made of it. All their vast Strauss output was recorded in "studio conditions" in the Sofiensaal- bar the last concert.
Boskovsky was succeeded by Maazel, primarily for the reason that he was a violinist and could conduct and play in true Strauss/Boskovsky fashion-and with that the recordings of the live concerts began to appear, recorded and released by DG.
In 1987, Karajan had parted acrimoniously from the Berlin Philharmonic, and his Vienna orchestra lost no time in engaging him for what they rightly surmised might be the only time. Karajan took it very seriously, and researched the scores as if from new, seeking out the best editions. It was to be a "Strauss Family Only" concert-no Lanner or other interlopers.
Karajan's approach to this music was the opposite to that of Boskovsky, who conducted it very much from a dance point of view, sprightly and brisk.
Karajan by contrast took almost a Brucknerian approach, with long phrases conjoined by the subtlest of rubato, each note lovingly "played through" to extract maximum sonority.
For this concert, all 3 Concert Masters of the great orchestra played in the first violins-Gerhart Hetzel, Rainer Kuchl and Werner Hink are clearly visible in the cover artwork, and the orchestra has never sounded so beautiful in this music.
Karajan broke tradition by including a vocal number-"Voices of Spring"-sung with almost unbelievable beauty and style by Kathleen Battle in her prime.
Piece after piece has never sounded so magical, the two Josef Srauss waltz sequences are just breathtaking for example. The lively pieces go just as well, and for this reissue, the Emperor Waltz has been restored and I can recall none finer.
Happily, the DG Engineers caught the performance in radiant sound, with both luxuriant warmth and ample bite when required.
The mishaps are omitted-Karajan forgot about "Ohne Sorgen" and had commenced what he thought was The Blue Danube-he stopped, and started again correctly, and then the microphone cut off and on intermittently in his address and New Year Greeting. We are happily spared these upsets.
There have been great concerts since-this year's recording is superb, not least technically, but none has been able to elevate this music to the heights reached by Karajan and The Vienna Philharmonic in this incomparable recording.
The price is now paltry, and though it has always been a "must have " recording, it is even more so now. Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe.
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Amazon is a completely open forum, so, providing a rule against obscenity or something is not contravened, any half-wit, including me, can post an opinion - and boy does that sometimes become obvious. One here tells us that Karajan's conducting is old, tired and without energy and another that we should skip Kathleen Battle's contribution as she has a nasty voice and no idea of Viennese style. It's still a free country (more or less) but never have such people made a better case for censorship - except that it's probably more effective to let their inanities stand as self-condemning. I’d love to apply the blind-listening test to the former to demonstrate a water-tight exemplar of someone hearing what they intended to - the other one simply needs a hearing aid.

Anyway, to business; it is touching how that complicated and immensely gifted old ego-maniac von Karajan finally got the offer to guest-conduct a Viennese New Year's Eve concert when he was ill and ailing and always in pain from his back injury - yet you would hardly guess that from the lilt, lift and spring of these performances of a medley of the Strauss family's loveliest melodies. Boundless energy and aggression are hardly required in such music; rather wit, charm and delight are in order. Karajan and the VPO are clearly enjoying themselves. Just before listening to this, I played another famous New Year's Eve concert recording from Berlin in 1992 with Abbado at the helm of the BPO; that is also a glorious affair but rather more serious than this one, being dedicated to the works of the other Strauss. This recording is all smiles. Pace the previous malcontent, it is hard to imagine a prettier, more beguiling lyric-coloratura soprano than Battle's and how she is inappropriate stylistically beats me; for eight minutes she trills, skims, swoops and soars as if she hadn't a care in the world, always dead on the note and scarcely an aspirate within earshot (well, almost nary a one..).

The centrepiece of any such concert must be the "Blue Danube" and it is gloriously played here, with the requisite Schmaltz and affection. The audience participation in the Radetzky March is unusually scrappy but it matters not; this is sheer fun.
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on 25 September 2008
Believe the hype. This is a lovely record. 80 minutes of sheer joy (one new track - the Emperor Waltz - has been added to this reissue). The Vienna Philharmonic always used to have a reputation for the sweetest string sound in the world, and it is very clearly evident here. Karajan's 1980s recordings are a mixed bag; some have been rightly criticised as superficial, glossy, or lacking in tension. Others, including this one, are among the best he ever made; which means they are among the best ANY conductor has ever made. Some of the most famous Strauss family pieces are here - the aforementioned Emperor Waltz, the Blue Danube, Die Fleidermaus Overture and the Radetzky March. All are beautifully played. Karajan said that he had loved this music all his life, and that love shines through in every bar.
After Karajan's death in 1989 the inevitable reaction set in and his reputation took a nosedive (partly because so many of the recordings DG were promoting at the time were indifferent digital remakes of earlier triumphs). This record reminds you how great he was when on top form.
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As a single example of these concerts this disc, rightly, has achieved a considerable reputation and is probably the only one needed to fill that sort of gap. What you get on this disc is nearly all the concert but in an adjusted order. There are two missing items - the Gypsy Baron overture which opened the original concert and the Perpetuum Mobile which was the tenth piece in the original concert. The applause is also reduced as unnecessary for an audio only experience.

The stereo sound is excellent and provides for realistic timbres and balances. In that respect it is indistinguishable from the DVD version. Some comment has been made that this audio disc allows the listener to closely identify with what made Karajan concerts remarkable when caught at his best and illustrating the extraordinary empathy achieved between himself and the performers.

That may be true within the limitations of an audio only experience but to really experience the chemistry between Karajan and his players, and also Kathleen Battle, there is no substitute for the DVD version. The extra playing time of 98 minutes compared to the 80 minutes of this disc is only partly explained by the two extra items amounting to just over ten minutes of performance time. The remainder is down to all the none-musical ingredients of a 'live' occasion - the interaction between conductor and his colleagues and between conductor and his audience. The contribution of Kathleen Battle to the occasion can only be described as especially magical and arguably without parallel as she charms the audience, the orchestra and even the conductor!

For all these reasons there is an excellent reason to purchase both the CD here as well as the DVD. Both are superb but both deliver a significantly different experience. Buy both - you will not regret it!
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on 11 July 2016
Of the dozen or so New Year Concert recordings I have heard, this is the one I’d say I’ve enjoyed the most and by a long way. It is, in fact, in my top five all time classical recordings. I owned the original release which was missing what for me is the best track: “The Kaiser Waltz.” I think the time limit for the CD format was just over 74 minutes back when it was originally released, and that was why that waltz was not included. Now the limit runs up to about 80 minutes and we get that extra track.
One other highlight worthy of note is “Voices of Spring” which is a glorious waltz with the voice of soprano Kathleen Battle, who stole that part of the show. Great idea to bring her in. I have to say she’s turned me on to the solo female voice in classical music and I’ve bought other recordings of hers.
The choice of music programme was excellent; there’s not a bad track or a bum note. You get the excitement of the live recording without hearing as much as a cough from the audience, except during the Radetsky March which is the traditional finale.
For the completest: The Karajan 80’s DG box splits the album over two discs and adds yet another two tracks: “Overture to the Operetta Zigeunerbaron” and “Perpetually Mobile.” I also have that so this disc I’m reviewing now lives in the car.
I can also recommend the DVD which has excellent sound, even if the picture is only of the quality we got from NTSC TV back in the 80’s.
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"Cato, the Devil comes to us in many guises, not least as the viper of Karajanism! Who can withstand his fangs! Who can endure his poison! Woe betide anyone who braves such toxicity!"

Thus screeched Father Melchizedek OP, the High Priest of Period Practice. The listener was Cato, his faithful, long-suffering manservant.

"Who can doubt this!" said the latter as he stifled a yawn.

"Yes indeed," the cleric hissed venomously, "Who can stomach his wallowing, Gothic, anti-Enlightenment anti-humanist, reactionary and maudlin treacle and his self-absorbed hymns to his former `Leader' who disappeared into the Bunker all those years ago! It's nothing more, my lad, than Dungeons and Dragons howled full blast in the Philharmonie or the Musikverein, over a drone of the snores of the Austro-German plutocrats who underwrite his precious Helden-Pomposity!"

"I could not have said it better myself!" Cato replied drolly. He gulped. "Now, what is Your Grace's pleasure?"

"Cato, consider the salutary fate of Norman Morrison who immolated himself outside Robert McNamara's office at the Pentagon in 1965. In doing so, he protested America's involvement in Vietnam. It was the act of a brave man. I intend to emulate his heroism. Dust off the SPECTRE time-machine and send me back to the Musikverein on New Year's Day 1987 where I will undertake a protest at the most vile Nuremberg Rally of them all! Yes, Karajan's All-Strauss Concert - a day of infamy in the history of the world!"

"Your Grace, is this wisdom? You know that the SPECTRE time-machine has been playing up! It's no more reliable than the Silver Hornet - your limo of choice! Just because I program it with a certain time and destination does not mean it'll deliver! Worse still, if I cannot get a fix on your position, it might be impossible to return you to the present! Moreover, this contraption works like its equivalent in the Terminator movies: you'll land on the other side with no clothes on!"

"Cato! Control your fears - nay, deal with them! Whatever comes my way, I shall be indefatigable! If I protest in the nude, so much the better! Now prepare the time-machine for my rendezvous with destiny!"

"Do you really want to run into Eliette von Karajan again?" Cato suggested impishly. He lowered his voice. "You know what did she to you last time!"

"The Devil take her and her progeny! Nevertheless, I will not allow your fears . . . and her bull-whips . . . to cloud my judgement! Again, prepare the time-machine! Do it! While I wait, I will immerse myself in Steffani's `Orlando Generoso'. If I have time, I'll pen an epistle to our local opera company manager and demand that he/she schedule it in an upcoming season. It's an almost-forgotten masterpiece!"

As he set about this task, Cato pondered the absurdity of the situation to himself. "The old man has finally gone bonkers! I don't know what he's going on about! This is arguably the most famous concert of all time. Indeed, it shades the concert that Furtwängler gave in February 1945 as the Red Army approached Berlin, or Karajan's Bruckner Eighth at Carnegie Hall in 1989. Here, the Vienna Philharmonic has never been more itself in its mastery of Strauss' waltz-rhythms as if its entire existence and every note it had ever played had been leading up to this signal event. Who can resist the immense joy of this event, as if transience and death are nullified in their entirety and our blazes of being resonate beyond mere time and space? Who is not something more than mere flesh and blood in that first minute or so of the Blue Danube? Is there anything more mystical than Sphärenklänge? Even Catwoman - otherwise known as Kathleen Battle - sheathes her claws for its duration; has Frühlingsstimmen ever been sung so effortlessly. What a talent! This particular Radetzky March deserves to be seen and heard but for the moment, the latter will do. For all his egotism and tyrannies, this is Karajan at his most lovable as the old man seeks lux eterna amidst so many glimmerings and decays."

One hour later, dressed in his episcopal finery and bedecked with a pectoral cross, Father Melchizedek strapped himself into the time-machine. After muttering a final prayer or two, he started fierily at his trusty man-servant.

"You have my every blessing, dear Cato! Now, SPECTRE expects every man and counter-tenor to do their duty! Send me on my way!"

With a bang, the cleric disappeared in a burst of smoke. The next few minutes - if minutes they be - were hazy. Father Melchizedek gradually regained his bearings. As Cato had predicted, he had parted company with his clothes. The air was drenched with steam. He was standing in some sort of industrial laundry whose machines were making a racket to high heaven. Nor was he alone. There was half a dozen men standing around, most of whom would have scared the Devil on a stormy night. They were drenched in sweat and stripped down to their underpants.

"Where am I!" the cleric wailed. "What is this godforsaken place!"

"We have a new belle of the ball!" one of them purred. "Welcome to Sing Sing's laundry department!"

"Hello Darlin!" another inmate hooted. "It's New Year's Eve 1987! Let's celebrate! Where shall we start!"

"Cato! Cato!!!"
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on 31 August 2009
once again new year's concert in vienna is great
kathleen battle catches the breath
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This is a classic recording- Karajan and a powerful orchestra working well together in harmony. Enjoyable, precise, lively music.
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on 22 November 2013
I Love the New Year Concerts on New Year,s Day and the CD,s, DVD,s and Blu-Ray,s of all these Concerts are lovely to Collect and Listen to and watch again and again.
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