Fritz Kreisler, incomparable violinist and prolific composer, was the supreme interpreter of his own pieces; his recordings of them have cast a spell on generations of performers. Joshua Bell succumbed to it as a boy, but avoids the pitfall of trying to imitate Kreisler's style, putting his own stamp on both the original pieces and the so-called baroque arrangements, which Kreisler eventually admitted having written himself. The program, shrewdly chosen to display Kreisler's multifaceted versatility, includes stylized, graceful dances, dreamy reveries, outbursts of joy and passion, parodistic syncopation, and, of course, true Viennese character pieces. Bell's love of the music suffuses every note; he captures mood, character, and expression with flair and impeccable style. His playing, technically brilliant and tonally ravishing, has humor, wit, grace, elegance, and irresistible charm. Sentiment never becomes sentimentality; there is not a trace of schmalz or kitsch. The piano parts, with their sophisticated harmonies and skillful counterpoint, prove that Kreisler was a good composer as well as a fine pianist; Paul Coker plays them with just the right combination of rhythmic steadiness and idiomatic freedom. --Edith Eisler
The New Year's Concert in Vienna has been a glorious tradition for over six decades. A best-selling classical event, the concert has a unique global appeal. It has been broadcast on TV and radio to over 50 countries, and is viewed by tens of millions of people all over the world. The 2008 New Year's Day Concert will be conducted by the eminent conductor Georges Prêtre, the first French conductor to receive this honor. The concert program for January 1, 2008 will be the customary collection of Strauss delights, but this time with a French theme. Receiving its first performance at a New Year's Concert, Napoleon March op. 156 by Johann Strauss II will open the program. The traditional encores of Blue Danube Waltz and Radetzky March will be joined by the Sport Polka as a nod to the European Football Championship to be held in Vienna in 2008. The Summer Olympics in Beijing is also being saluted by the orchestra with an early work of the elder Johann Strauss, his exotically colored Chinese Gallop.