The two titanic forces of Vienna Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan came together for the 1987 New Years. The orchestra and the conductor were both incredible. The instrument went well together.
While most of the orchestras can be torture but this concert was not. It all sounded magical. Even after thirty-two years, that magic is as vivid as ever.
Herbert von Karajan takes the music seriously and the ‘oom-pah-pah’ would not go on autopilot. He has a reputation of Austro-German seriousness. The music remains lively and dance-like, it is because of how he pulls the tempi.
The accuracy of the idiosyncratic ‘Vienna rhythm’ where the tiny emphasis is on the first pah of ‘oom-pah-pah’ in ‘The Blue Danube’.
As a conductor, Herbert von Karajan has fun. The players relish their relation with the conductor. It is clear that they are enjoying as much as the conductor is enjoying it. It makes the music sparkle.
It is amazing that there are only a handful of concerts for which they came together. since 1939, only a few conductors have taken the helm of the Vienna New Year’s concert.
Clemens Kraus was the first. Following him was Willi Boskovsky and then was Lorin Maazel. In 1987, the orchestra decided to stir things up. From then onwards, the orchestra has invited a different conductor every year.
Herbert was frail by the time he got to play in the orchestra. He was 79 years old and was not in good health. It was important to book him while he was available.
He was unable to conduct a similar concert. He died in 1989. The players were pleased to have played with him.
The concert was something to witness. It was an ear-opener for the people who were familiar with the work of the famous member of the waltz family: Johann Strauss II. There was terrific work from his brother Josef and his father Johann Strauss I.