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on February 9, 2013
This is my first blu ray disc and I am quite pleased with the quality of the sound and picture. One of my favorite things is watching the New Years concert on Jan 1. This disc has the straight up concert without the annoying puff pieces shown on PBS. The dance sequences are in the "extra features" and there is a very nice short film featuring Austrian landscapes and some small groups from the orchestra performing some fun music.
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on August 7, 2013
I am a self confessed Viennese music "junkie." I have CDs and vinyl of all sorts of music from many Viennese composers. I have most of the New Year's Concerts that are available on DVD going back to Willi Boskovsky (the master). This year's concert, in my opinion, was a good as any of the other ones. Many of the pieces were not the usual that this group has played in past concerts. This I found refreshing. The Blu ray images were good. The DTS-HD master sound track was clean and lively. There were a number of interesting extras including the complete Ballet numbers.
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VINE VOICEon April 30, 2013
This is a festive concert to enjoy. The repertoire is as expected except for the addition of Wagner and Verdi, to initiate the 200 anniversaries. Most of the music is by the Strauss family as traditional in these concerts. It is a pleasure to listen to, and the images make you feel like you are there (almost). At the end, some humor is introduced to add to the festive occasion. I was happily surprised by the extras: Honeymoon is a beautiful short movie with great music and impressive video shots, a real treat. The ballet sequence is interesting and very well filmed. This Blu-ray disc is certainly worth the price.
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HALL OF FAMEon January 2, 2013
In a concert emphasizing both the festive nature of the music being performed and the music of Josef Strauss, the middle brother, in the Strauss family dynasty of Austrian composers noted for their exceptional compositions of waltzes, polkas and other dances, this year's "New Year's Day Concert", should be noted for both the excellent playing of the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and the fine conducting of Vienna State Opera Music Director - and Cleveland Orchestra Music Director - Franz Welser-Most. Most of the pieces performed include lesser known waltzes and polkas composed by Josef Strauss, regarded by his peers as the "Schubert of Waltz composers", with his best known work, the waltz "Music of the Spheres" among the highlights of the program; if for no other reason this is a concert that should be remembered for emphasizing Josef Strauss' exceptional gifts as a composer, surpassed only by his brother Johann Strauss II. It is followed later by a piece I have heard performed live by the Wiener Philharmoniker and other American orchestras before, the Prelude to Act III from Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin", in honor of the forthcoming bicentennial of his birth, but this is an especially distinguished interpretation emphasizing the warm, sonic qualities of the great hall of the Musikverein itself. Of course, the program concludes with the traditional encores of Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube" waltz and Johann Strauss I's "Radetzky March". To my surprise, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wiener Philharmoniker has opted not to issue the video and the CD by Deutsche Grammophon; instead, Sony is releasing both. The video may include scenes of Vienna State Opera Ballet dancers performing to the strains of several pieces, most notably those composed by Josef Strauss, scenes of the Danube River shrouded in snow-covered forests - during the performance of the "Blue Danube Waltz" - and a brief interview with the program host, again this year actress Julie Andrews, discussing with conductor Franz Welser-Most, Viennese reaction to Wagner's music. (The annual program is shown worldwide and, in the United States, is broadcasted as a co-production of public television station WNET and ORF, Austrian national radio and television.)

Courtesy of the Wiener Philharmoniker's website, here is the program, not including the three encores of which the first was a brief Josef Strauss piece followed by the "Blue Danube Waltz" and the "Radetzky March":

Josef Strauss: The Soubrette, Fast Polka, op. 109
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Kiss Waltz, op. 400
Josef Strauss: Theater Quadrille, op. 213
Johann Strauss, Jr.: From the Mountains, Waltz, op. 292
Franz von Suppé: Overture to the Operetta "Light Cavalry"


Josef Strauss: Music of the Spheres, Waltz, op. 235
Josef Strauss: The Spinstress, Polka française, op. 192
Richard Wagner: Prelude to Act III of the Romantic Opera "Lohengrin", WWV 75
Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr.: In Confidence, Polka mazur, op. 15
Josef Strauss: Hesperus' Paths, Waltz, op. 279 Josef Strauss: The Runners, Fast Polka, op. 237
Joseph Lanner: Styrian Dances, op. 165
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Melodies Quadrille, op.112
Giuseppe Verdi: Prestissimo from the Ballet Music in Act III of the Opera "Don Carlo"
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Where the Lemon Trees Bloom, Waltz, op. 364
Johann Strauss, Sr.: Memories of Ernst or The Carnival of Venice, Fantasy, op. 126
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on April 22, 2013
Although the performance (also seen on PBS on Jan 1) was superb both from the visual and audio perspective, it was ruined by the fact that the the sound was not in synchrony with the visual. For a classical music lover there is nothing worse than seeing the bowing of the strings not correspond to the sound of the strings. Sony should rectify this problem and provide the people that purchased this BR disc a corrected version!
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on June 2, 2013
For a music lover, a classic music lover, this blu-ray disc is perfect in both images and music if you have a 8 channel sound system as mine with a 70 inch TV to watch in a real family media room. I do not know whether it worth to buy if your equipments would not reproduce the high quality music and images to enjoy.

For the few have better equipment than mine, if you like classic music, go to buy it and enjoy it and it will not disappoint you.
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on February 6, 2013
I've been a committed viewer of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Day concerts since the early 1980s, when Lorin Maazel took over the duties from Willi Boskovsky, leading the concert in consecutive years as conductor and occasional violin soloist.

There have been many memorable New Year's Day concerts over the decades: those led by Maazel, Karajan, Kleiber, Prêtre, Mehta, Muti and Abbado, for example. Even Ozawa's single star turn in 2002 was surprisingly enjoyable. There was always a feeling of anticipation with the approach of this concert, and for the most part, it delivered the goods, most notably when conductors one might consider to be a bit staid in their typical stage demeanor let their hair down and joined in this traditional lighthearted welcome of the new year.

Recent years have been less consistent in delivering an event that can be called truly memorable, especially in regards to the quality of the music making on display. In fact, I count more than a few of the recent concerts to be failures: both of Harnoncourt's appearances (2001 & 2003) and Barenboim's cheerlessly pedantic appearance in 2009. Mixed in with the "not so much" concerts given in the first decade of the new century was a stellar first appearance by Georges Prêtre in 2008, followed by his still-enjoyable but less-stellar follow-up in 2010, and Mariss Jansons' two appearances in 2006 & 2012.

Franz Welser-Möst (FWM) made his first appearance at this concert back in 2011, a concert in which I felt he acquitted himself well. He's a native Austrian and the current head of the Vienna State Opera, ie: the kind of person one would assume is to the manner born. Alas, FWM's reappearance in 2013 is a decided come down from the promise he displayed but two years ago.

On the one hand, FWM is to some extent held hostage to the repertoire selected for this concert. Fully eleven of the twenty pieces played on this concert receive their NYD concert premieres. That happens because the concert has been programmed to salute the 90th birthday of Hedwig-Aigner Strauss (who was in attendance at this concert), by featuring music of her great-grandfather, Josef Strauss, and by including works of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, both of who were born in 1813, and who are having the 200th anniversaries of their births celebrated in the music world. This leads to a bit of a hodgepodge of music that might not otherwise feature so prominently on this concert, ie: fewer warhorses/chestnuts and more obscure repertoire. It also puts a lot of pressure on the performers to deliver the goods to the audience - it's always a bit harder to sell a "new" piece to an audience that is expecting to hear many of the old favorites.

I can see the Josef/Richard/Giuseppe concept working in theory: pulling off such a repertoire mix would be child's play in the hands of a Mehta or a Maazel. But FWM is not either of those conductors, and his best effort here falls short in making the case for these new arrivals. They are given straight-forward performances that - to me - aren't much better than highly competent run through-s. It's almost as if FWM is a second-string conductor who has prepared the orchestra for the star conductor - who then fails to show for the concert, and which results in the second-stringer being shoved out on the stage, with fingers crossed that somehow the traditional magic will just happen.

It doesn't.

Lest I imply that this concert fails due solely to the unusual repertoire, I'm sorry to report that that's not the worst of it. The biggest disappointment comes when FWM tries his hand at the few warhorses that are included on this concert. It starts off with a rendition of "Music of the Spheres" (Sphärenkläge) that is blanched to an interpretive white when set alongside Muti's expressive 2004 version, let alone Karajan's colorful and nostalgic version from 1987, which is in a class of its own. It doesn't fare much better when considered against the virtuosic interpretation of Carlos Kleiber from 1992. FWM is careful to a fault in this piece, missing any feeling of echt-Viennese nostalgia that is always coupled with a sense of sadness.

The same goes for FWM's interpretation of "Where the Lemon Trees Blossom" - a piece that drips heavily of nostalgia mixed with a feeling of regret, if not remorse. In FWM's hands, it's a well-played (if cautious) laying out of the notes that seems to betray a conductor who maybe hasn't yet suffered enough in this life to bring an experienced perspective to his music making.

But the worst misfire occurs via a big helping of forced humor that falls absolutely flat in Strauss Father's "Carnival of Venice," where FWM's handing out of stuffed animals to the orchestral soloists comes off as a contrived moment of conductor and orchestra "just bein' regular guys." This is the kind of staged, too-cute-by-half, wince-inducing "humor" that reinforces the idea that classical music is entirely disconnected from normal human experience. You know - like when you feel the obligation to laugh at the stale jokes being told by your rich uncle. Surely, classical music can do better than this embarrassing substitute for actual humor!

In the encore section of the concert, we're offered a "Blue Danube" minus many of its internal repeats (which makes for a Blue Danube dispatched in record time), and a Radetzky March on automatic pilot, save for a few ineffective accelerandi that crop up when they're not needed.

One of FWM's glaring faults in this repertoire is that he lets the energy sag in the transitional bars of the longer pieces, pieces that feature many different sections built on new themes ("Music of the Spheres" is the best example). In the best hands, these transitional bars have a frisson that makes one excitedly anticipate the next big section in the composition. In FWM's hands, these transitional bars fall flat - they feel like a vamp, rather than a wind-up to the coming pitch.

Another problem I notice is a lack of unanimity in the string playing. Listen closely enough and you'll occasionally hear the sound of one violin sticking out from the rest of the section. It's a small thing, but it serves to testify that the orchestra isn't playing in the kind of "zone" they do under the best conductors, when everyone is of the same mind, and is being swept along by the vision of the conductor. It's the kind of high-level musical nuance that only gets noticed by its absence.

As far as production values, the BluRay's HD picture and camera work are excellent, while the soundtrack lacks bloom, though it seems to get better as the concert proceeds.

I had high hopes for this concert after FWM's 2011 appearance, but this concert was quite disappointing. It's average, at best. Considering my disappointment in both FWM and Harnoncourt in this concert, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps this concert is best kept away from being entrusted to the natives.

I'm hoping that this concert gets back on track over the next few years, though the fact that Daniel Barenboim has been announced as conductor for the 2014 affair doesn't bode well for that hope being realized any time soon. I get that many of the star conductors of this event are well past their sell-by date, but there has to be *somebody* out there who can restore the excitement and sense of event this concert has always delivered in strictly musical terms. Perhaps Vienna should simply alternate Prêtre and Jansons for the next six years and hope someone new comes along who warrants an invitation.

Recommended only for completists like me, VPO junkies and the FWM fan club.

Two-and-a-half stars.
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on March 9, 2013
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on June 17, 2014
Everything is beautiful, the video quality, the sound in blue ray, flowers, bonus materials, etc. I wish the subtitles could be in English.
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