The New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic It is the main media event of the classic. It gathers every first of January an average of 50 million spectators in front of the television (in Spain by La1, 11.15) in more than 90 countries around the world. And it has a strong tradition, as evidenced by its 79 years of history. It follows the same pattern that combines one of the best orchestras in the world, such as the Vienna Philharmonic; the annual invitation of an outstanding director, like this year the Berlin Christian Thielemann; the city of Vienna and the miraculous acoustics of the Golden Room of its Musikverein; and an attractive program of short and light pieces by the Strauss family with additions by some contemporary composers. But it is much more: a high-quality television broadcast, refined floral decorations, ballet scenes with colorful locations, choreography and costumes, an attractive documentary for rest, etc. We will deal with all of this in the next lines.
We start with the location. The New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is always celebrated in the Austrian capital. A privileged musical center that has counted, in the last three hundred years, with the activity of the main composers: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler or Schönberg. And an ideal environment for the development of the waltz and operetta that represent the Strauss family and, more specifically, Johann Strauss son (1825-1899), the most prolific composer and represented, year after year, in the New Year's Concert.
Its origin goes back to the annexed Austria for the Germany of Hitler and the initiative of the Austrian director Clemens Krauss. He was born on December 31, 1939, but since 1941 it takes place on its correct date. Austrian victimization, after the Second World War, whitewashed its Nazi origins and turned it into a showcase for the Austrian cultural excellence that it is today. And today it is part of the traditions of the beginning of the year in millions of homes around the world.
It is celebrated in the Golden Room of the Musikverein, the famous concert building that the Society of Friends of Music of Vienna built in 1870. It was designed by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen, who was inspired by the Greek classicism, as its famous ones attest Caryatids It also has one of the best acoustics in the world for its characteristic rectangular parallelepiped shape or "shoe box".
The Golden Room of the Musikverein is decorated annually for the occasion with a spectacular display of floral decorations. In the past they were a gift from the Italian city of San Remo, but since 2015 the Department of Parks and Gardens of the City of Vienna has taken over the decoration. The room becomes a sea of 30,000 flowers. This year light and sunny yellow, white, cream, pastel orange and fresh green will dominate both roses and lilies and orchids and there will also be pin cushions.
The Vienna Philharmonic is one of the best orchestras in the world. It arose, in 1842, to satisfy the growing demand for philharmonic concerts in the city. Hence its name, since Wiener Philharmoniker literally means "Viennese Philharmonic". The composer Otto Nicolai founded it with the best musicians of the orchestra of the Imperial Opera (today State) constituted in a self-managed association. It is a very conservative ensemble with an unmistakably autochthonous and elegant sound. It has its own instrumental tradition, with different variants of other orchestras for the oboe, the horn or the timbale. And it is common to find among its members disciples of former members or strong family affiliations.
The conservative ideology of this orchestra has incurred controversy for its sexist and racist attitudes. Until 1997, no woman was allowed to play in the orchestra, but today she has fifteen full-fledged female members (20%) and even has, since 2011, a woman among her four concertina musicians, the Bulgarian Albena Danailova, who will sit on the first music stand next to Rainer Honeck. After the year of #MeToo we will see in this edition eleven of them playing in the New Year's Concert and not only in the string section, but also in main woodwind positions with the Austrian flutist Karin Bonelli and the French bassoonist Sophie Dervaux (Dartigalongue).
The Vienna Philharmonic annually invites a prestigious director to direct the New Year's Concert. Although in the past there was initially a stable one (such as Clemens Krauss, Willi Boskovsky and Lorin Maazel), since 1987 it has been changed every year. The alternation began with Herbert von Karajan and was followed by Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Seiji Ozawa, Mariss Jansons, Georges Prêtre, Daniel Barenboim, Franz Welser-Möst and Gustavo Dudamel. In 2019 the German Christian Thielemann (Berlin, 1959), holder of the Staatskapelle of Dresden and musical director of the Easter festivals of Salzburg and Bayreuth, will debut. Thielemann made his debut in 1987 at the Viennese State Opera and, in 2000, at the Musikverein. He has recorded with the Viennese orchestra Wagner operas and symphonic poems by Richard Strauss (DG), along with an integral of the Beethoven symphonies in audio and video (Sony / C Major).
The tradition of the New Year's Concert is related to the members of the Strauss family, the main dynasty of Viennese dance and opera composers of the 19th century. The most relevant is Johann Strauss Jr., although he also always adds works by his brother Josef, the most imaginative at the musical level, the patriarch of the family, Johann Strauss father, and, to a lesser extent, Eduard, the youngest of the saga . This edition we will listen to works of all of them. Johann son predominates, with 11 of the 20 compositions, with works as well known as the waltz Artist's life, the tsar of the opera Caballero Pásmán wave Egyptian March, but also with something new like the polka EXPRESS and the Vals de Eva. Josef follows him with three compositions, two famous waltzes (Transactions Y Music of the spheres) and the French polka The dancer, which will be a novelty in the New Year's Concert. From Eduard two compositions will be heard, with the French polka Afternoon at the opera as a novelty. And the father will only sound the popular Radetzky March in the end. Also they usually include works of contemporary composers or related to the orchestra like Joseph Lanner, Franz Lehár, Otto Nicolai and Franz von Suppé. This year the March of Schönfeld, by Karl Michael Ziehrer, a contemporary composer and rival of the Strauss, whose music has been playing in the New Year's Concert sporadically since 1972. And two works by the director Josef Hellmesberger Jr., who replaced Mahler as the conductor of the Viennese orchestra in 1901: the mendelssohniano Run of elves and the waltz Intermission which will also be a novelty in the New Year's Concert.
Exceptionally, some pieces by a relevant composer are added to celebrate its anniversary as it happened in 1991 with Mozart, in 1997 with Schubert, in 2009 with Haydn, in 2013 with Verdi and Wagner and in 2014 with Richard Strauss. This year they have forgotten two important commemorations, such as the bicentennials of Franz von Suppé, from whom we heard last year the opening of his operetta Boccaccio, and Jacques Offenbach, whose centenary of his death was remembered by Lorin Maazel, in 1980, with the overture of Orpheus in the hells. It is also common to include compositions to remember anniversaries of events related to Vienna and Austria. For example, this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Vienna State Opera, with two instrumental fragments of the only Johann Strauss son opera, Caballero Pásmán, which was released there, on January 1, 1892. And also the century and a half of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Austria and Japan with the waltz Transactions, by Josef Strauss.
The New Year's Concert program it is always composed of polkas that alternate with waltzes and marches with orchestral fragments of Viennese operettas. The polka is a dance of Bohemian origin very popular in Vienna in the nineteenth century. This year we will listen to its three variants: the sparkling fast polka (like the galop With extra postage, by Eduard Strauss), the elegant French polka (this year represented by The dancer, by Josef Strauss) and the stylized mazurka polka (this edition with the melancholy Praise of women, by Johann Strauss Jr.).
Waltzes are the most exquisitely musical part of the New Year's Concert. Symphonic works longer and more elaborate than the polkas, which conjugate several waltzes located between a slow introduction and a final coda. As usual, Johann Strauss Jr. will hear the most famous of all waltzes, The beautiful blue Danube. But the well-known waltz is also programmed Artist's life that includes up to five different waltzes perfectly set in a kind of symphonic poem. This year the musically most interesting waltzes will be North Sea prints, by Johann Jr., where we hear the recreation of a storm, and Music of the spheres, by Josef Strauss, with reminiscences of Tannhäuser, by Wagner.
The marches are usually scheduled for the beginning or end of the concert. They are occasional works linked to relevant events or characters, such as the march that opens the Ziehrer concert dedicated to the General Inspector of Troops in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Anton von Schönfeld. To finish, and as usual, you will hear the popular Radetzky March, who composed Johann Strauss father to honor the marshal who quelled the revolts of northern Italy. But also this year will sound the popular Egyptian March, by Johann Strauss Jr., which is regularly scheduled since the beginning of the New Year Concert and includes the hum of the members of the orchestra in the second of their trios. There will also be an opening to open the second part of the concert. This year will be the operetta The gypsy baron, by Johann Strauss Jr., which is usually scheduled at the New Year's Concert since 1941. Without forgetting the spectacular ballet of the ballet of the third act of the opera Caballero Pásmán, by Johann Jr., which was scheduled since the first edition of 1939 and which Carlos Kleiber converted, in 1989, into one of the happiest musical moments in the history of New Year's Concerts.
It is well known that in the New Year's Concert the scheduled program does not end the concert. There are always three tips, that is, compositions that are added at the end and outside the program. In the New Year's Concert they have a special character since they have been previously established since 1958. That year Willi Boskovsky determined that a rapid polka would be included that varies year after year (in 2019 it will be Hurry and running by Johann Strauss son), followed by the waltz The beautiful blue Danube and the Radetzky March to end. Actually, the tradition of having these three tips was initiated by Josef Krips, in 1946, and continued by Clemens Krauss until 1954, although it was Boskovsky who consolidated it, especially after the beginning of the television broadcasts of the New Year's Concert, in 1959 .
There are several traditions assigned to the public during the New Year's Concert. One is the congratulation of the new year that the director performs with the orchestra before the waltz The beautiful blue Danube. Here it is usual to interrupt the music with applause at the beginning of the introduction of the waltz. It is normal for the director to say in German simply: "The Vienna Philharmonic and I wish you …"; to which the orchestra will respond: "Happy new year". However, some directors have used this moment to make a brief speech.
Another tradition in the New Year's Concert is the rhythmic tapping of the public in the Radetzky March, of Johann Strauss father, with whom it ends. On many occasions even under the direction of the conductor. It is what has been left of a musical event where the public behaved in the past more freely and naturally. By the radio recording of the concert directed by Clemens Krauss, in 1954, we know that the audience reacted with applause when listening to their favorite compositions, and forced the orchestra to stop and start again. However, he never patted rhythmically during music. This tradition began in the era of Willi Boskovsky in the sixties, when the Radetzky March as the end of the concert. The tradition continued with Lorin Maazel in the eighties and acquired a definitive nature when the very same Herbert von Karajan he turned to the public, in 1987, to direct it.
During the years in which Willi Boskovsky conducted the New Year's Concert (1955-1979) he acquired his most festive and amusing condition. It was sprinkled with costumes, gags and jokes. Its origin is related to the ingenuity of the percussionist Franz Broschek. It all started in 1959, when he decided to wear a beard and mustache from a party during the quick polka Eljen to Magyar, by Johann Strauss Jr. The joke so much amused the public that, from then on, he was named "official joker" of the New Year's Concert. Every year there were small performances related to some work of the program. As soon as he dressed as a Cordovan to play castanets, he dressed as a blacksmith to touch anvils or dragged a plucked chicken before firing a shotgun. The audience accompanied them with their palms. For the Radetzky March I used to touch the box next to the podium dressed in Austro-Hungarian military attire. And it is possible that in this joke is the origin of the famous rhythmic clapping current in that work. Today it is usual to include some comic detail during each edition of the New Year's Concert, even with the collaboration of the conductor himself.
The ORF, the Austrian public broadcaster, broadcasts the New Year's Concert live every first January. Its television broadcast was initiated in 1959 in both Austria and nine countries through Eurovision (Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, the then Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden and Switzerland). To Spain it arrived first between 1962 and 1970, and then from 1973 uninterruptedly until our days, always in the Public Entity Radiotelevisión Española (now Spanish Radio and Television Corporation) and through Eurovisión. This year the director of his television broadcast will be, for the second year in a row, the German Henning Kasten, who will have fourteen HD cameras. A curious novelty of this edition is the parallel recording of the concert by the NHK of Tokyo, related to the aforementioned Austro-Japanese commemoration, but in 8K resolution of Ultra High Definition. In Spain, the rebroadcast of the ORF can be seen through La 1 in HD, but also in the web of RTVE and on the international channel (and listen to Radio Clasico along with other stations such as Radio 5 or Radio Exterior). It will start at 11:15 with the Eurovision headline and the famous prelude of the Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. And it will count again this year with the comments of music journalist Martín Llade. The concert has two parts with an interval of about 25 minutes. The first part, which will last approximately until 11:50, is usually something more serious and conventional. In fact, until 1992 it was not retransmitted more than the second part, which will start at 12:15 and is usually more showy and attractive.
Since the 1992 New Year's Concert, the 25 minute interval between the two parties is used to broadcast a short documentary about Austria's cultural and natural treasures. It is done in a format that does not require spoken speakers when it is intended for broadcast in many countries. On this occasion we will see from 11:51 a documentary by Felix Breisach entitled Vienna State Opera, 1869-2019, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the famous neo-renaissance building on the Ringstrasse, which will take place in May. Apart from numerous locations in and around the theater, the documentary includes several musical fragments played by ensembles of the Vienna Philharmonic. In addition, the camera will be cast in the rehearsal of a duo of The bat, by Johann Strauss Jr., with the soprano Camilla Nylund and the baritone Adrian Eröd, and a fragment of the Raymonda ballet, by Glazunov. And we will also see the baritone Rafael Fingerlos and the soprano Daniela Sally, giving life to Papageno and Papagena, in the duo of Die Zauberflöte on the stage of the State Opera.
Since the New Year's Concert began to be broadcast on television, in 1959, there has always been a ballet scene. They are performed by the soloists of the Ballet of the State Opera of Vienna and they have a guest choreographer. This year will be, for the first time, the young Russian Andrey Kaydanovskiy, a dancer still active, who started in 2009 a career as a choreographer who has already garnered several awards. In this edition of the New Year's Concert we will see two ballet performances, both in the second part of the concert, and shot last summer under the direction of Henning Kasten. The first will be the waltz Artist's life, by Johann Strauss Jr., as a commemoration of the aforementioned 150th anniversary of the Vienna State Opera. We will see five pairs of dancers in different locations of the building such as the lobby, the stage, the stalls or the roof terrace. The second will be the opera's zarda Caballero Pásmán, by Johann Strauss Jr., filmed at Grafenegg Castle with four couples in different locations in this fairytale building. The costumes, which on occasion have been commissioned to an important designer, as happened in 2010 with Valentino, will be this year, also for the first time, the young Viennese designer Arthur Arbesser, a disciple of Armani who won the Fashion Award of Austria, in 2018, and who runs his own firm in Milan. Both, choreography and costumes, combine elegance and modernity, but also dialogue with space and music.
Tickets to attend the New Year's Concert are sold by lot through the website of the Vienna Philharmonic and one year in advance. To participate in the raffle it is essential to register on the aforementioned website, between January 2 and February 28. The Viennese orchestra has lately provided all the information about the draw in a downloadable PDF file written in Spanish. It will even be enabled an online support center from January 2, which also includes a wide range of FAQs or frequently asked questions in German and English. The winners in the draw will be able to buy tickets for the three opportunities in which this concert can be seen live. The general rehearsal of December 30 at 11 am, for a price ranging between 20 and 495 euros, for the Concert of San Silvestre or New Year's Eve of December 31 at 7:30 pm, whose price ranges between 25 and 800 euros , or for the New Year's Concert on January 1 at 11:15, with tickets ranging from 35 to 1090 euros.