Music of the Strauss family, Josef Strauss, Hellmesberger and Lanner, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Georges Pretre. with the Vienna State Opera Ballet
DECCA DVD VIDEO B 0010693 TT: 150 min + 25 min. UEFA documentary

A compilation of performances recorded during New Year's Concerts from the last thirty years with conductors Carlos Kleiber, Mariss Jansons, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Willi Boskovsky and Riccardo Muti
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO 00440 073 4422 TT: 116 min.

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90. Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Herbert von Karajan, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO 004400734386 (2 disks) TT: 161 min.

The New Year's Concert of 2008 conducted by Georges Pretre, the first French conductor to lead one of these annual events, was one of the best ever — a total delight in every way. It included six works receiving their first performances at the event: Johann Strauss's French polka Parisien, Paris waltz, and Versailles galop, and his son's Napoleon march, and Orpheus quadrille, as well as Josef Strauss's Laxenburg polka. Pretre was not a newcomer to Vienna. He was principal guest conductor of the Vienna Symphony from 1986-1991, and had conducted at the Vienna State Opera. His infectious good spirit pervades the concert and everyone has a great time, with the Vienna Philharmonic in top form. The DVD offers Brian Large's Director's Cut version that includes several dance sequences with the Vienna State Opera Ballet, a performance by the Spanish Riding School, plus a danced documentary on UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). A totally enjoyable disk, both visually and sonically.

The "Best Of" DVD offers highlights from nine New Year's Concerts between 1975 and 2007, with conductors Willi Boskovsky, Mariss Jansons, Carlos Kleiber, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, and Seiji Ozawa.Also we have performances by the Vienna State Opera Ballet, and some scenes of Vienna that add little to the proceedings. As a sampler, it's OK. Brian Large directed most of the videos and did his usual fine job. The 5.l surround sound is artificial but adequate.

If you'd like to spend well over two hours watching an expressionless Herbert von Karajan conducting with his eyes closed, get DGG's set of all four symphonies of Brahms recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic early in 1973. These are edited from a series of live performances before invited audience, interspersed with studio sessions of instrumental close ups that were edited into the final films. These are magnificent performances of the Brahms symphonies, all favorites of the conductor (he made the first of his many recordings of Symphony No. 1 in 1943 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra—intriguing to note that tempi are almost exactly the same in 1973 as they were 30 years earlier). Karajan's DGG audio recordings of these symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic are available at less than half the cost of this DVD two-disk set.

R.E.B. (May 2008)