The New Year's Concert in Vienna has been a glorious tradition for over six decades. A best-selling classical event year on year, the concert has unique global appeal. It is broadcast on TV and radio to over 50 countries, and is viewed by tens of millions of people all over the world.
As always, the challenge presented by this most traditional of concerts is to balance coherent and thoughtful exploration of the less familiar items in the catalog of 19th-century Straussian, Austrian, and central-European popular music with fresh readings of the chestnuts, including, of course, the obligatory last two encores on the program. In this case, Barenboim guides his audience, appropriately, through a travelogue of the Mediterranean and the East. Remarkably, 2009 marked the first time that Daniel Barenboim had ever been invited to conduct this event, perhaps a reminder of how seldom his commitments to Berlin and Chicago have allowed him to appear in this most southern of Austrian cities.
The seemingly bottomless record collection of Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond has spawned the third in an ongoing series of albums collecting obscure instrumental tracks from the '60s and '70s, and while many of these songs support the popular notion that the hipper and more interesting rock artists of the day were fond of vocal numbers, there are some fun and exciting tunes to be found on this set. Roaring Blue draws its title from the lead-off track, a swinging dance tune by the Sound of Jimmy Nicol, featuring the drummer who briefly replaced an ailing Ringo Starr during a tour in 1964 (this may explain why Nicol's drums are so far up in the mix), while members of the long-running U.K. pop band Blue Mink appear on the track "Beat Party" under the pseudonym the Underground, and John McLaughlin adds guitar licks to "Trans-Love Airways" by Big Jim Sullivan.
The Aeolian Quartet's epic cycle, originally released in the Seventies, was one of the gramophone's major contributions to Haydn's cause. Listening to the performances anew I find they have lost none of their freshness: they were based on the latest research, and the playing itself is always intelligent and thoughtful, with Emanuel Hurwitz's sweet-toned violin-playing a great asset throughout. (Misha Donat)