The New Year’s Concert, a recital of hope in an empty hall

Vienna, Dec 29 (EFE) .- Music gives hope and that is what the New Year’s Concert wants to convey with its optimistic music from the Strauss saga: after a fateful 2020, 2021 begins to the rhythm of waltzes and loaded with good promises.

But the pandemic imposes limitations: the music will resound on January 1 in an empty auditorium, since sanitary restrictions in Austria, in the middle of the third lockdown, prevent an audience in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.

There will be no audience, but applause. Thanks to a computer program, the orchestra will be able to listen to the ovations and the gratitude of a few thousand spectators who will follow the recital from home on loudspeakers.

This edition of the traditional New Year’s Concert, number 81, will be conducted by the Italian maestro Riccardo Muti, which will make him the living baton that has conducted the recital the most times.

The Italian maestro is already behind only legends of the philharmonic such as Clemens Krauss, Willi Boskovsky and Lorin Maazel.


“We will play this year giving a message of hope. We have to have hope,” Muti said during a press conference on Tuesday to explain the details of the most watched concert on the planet.

For Muti, a Musikverein without music on January 1 would have been “like a grave.” For this reason, although it was even proposed to suspend the concert, it was always decided to celebrate it to send a message of hope to the world, said the Neapolitan.

The director, who next year celebrates 80 years and 50 of his relationship with the Philharmonic, claimed music as a link between European citizens.

“Musicians have united Europe more than politicians,” said the director, who alluded to the power of music to move beyond languages ​​and borders.

Along the same lines, the president of the Vienna Philharmonic, Daniel Froschauer, argued that canceling the concert would have sent “a horrible message” to a world in need of new illusions.

On the contrary, holding the recital “will be a positive and hopeful sign” for the rest of the world, the violinist stressed.

“We feel very fortunate, and very responsible with the privilege (of holding the recital),” explained Froschauer, reminding other musicians that they don’t even know when they will be able to play again.

For this reason, the organizers and the interpreters comply with very strict security measures in order to participate in the event: to enter the Musikverein it is necessary to take a covid test every day, and even so it is mandatory to wear an FFP2 mask outside the stage.


For the second consecutive year -a novelty for the New Year’s Concert-, the Spanish José Carlos Martínez has been in charge of devising the choreography for the ballet performances that will be broadcast during some of the concert’s works.

The pieces have been previously recorded, and are set at the Liechtenstein Palace and the Looshaus in Vienna.

The Austrian public broadcaster ORF will offer live broadcasting to 90 countries with a large technical deployment to ensure the highest possible sound quality.

It is estimated that tens of millions of people will follow the concert live, so, although it will be a very different year for the musicians due to the absence of an audience, for those who start the year to the rhythm of a waltz in front of television it can be an experience close to the usual.


The absence of an audience in the room will prevent Muti from leading the clapping that traditionally accompanies the legendary Radetzky March, which marks the end of the party.

Unfortunately, technology has not been able to fill that gap. The 20-second delay between the moment when around 7,000 people record their applause from home and its broadcast in the auditorium make it impossible for the famous Johann Strauss piece to sound as usual.

“For the first time we will hear Radeztky’s March as it is written,” joked Muti, who hinted that this accompaniment does not appear in Strauss’s scores.

The applause of the public will sound at the end of the first half and at the end of the famous march to close a different New Year’s Concert, in which people from all over the world will be able to participate.

The telematic registration system to be able to applaud live was initially designed so that some 2,000 people would sign up and thus symbolically occupy the free seats that will be in the Golden Room, but soon after the planned number was exceeded.

“We had to close it at 7,000, because we did not know if the system could support more people,” said the director of the ORF, Alexander Wrabetz.

By Jorge Dastis and Pablo Ayerbe


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