The PBS broadcast of the New Year’s Concert at the Musikverein in Vienna is the icing on the holiday celebrations. The Vienna Philharmonic performance of the New Year’s Concert has been a musical tradition since December 31, 1939.
My love of classical music began when I took a university music history course. I naively thought it would be easy credits listening to pop and jazz music. Soon into the first lecture, I knew I was in trouble and that it was going to be a lot of work. I went to the professor hoping she would allow me to just audit the class but that wasn’t a possibility. She encouraged me to keep going to class and try to get the most out of it. I didn’t drop the class, persevered and in the end, achieved high grades but most importantly I acquired an enormous appreciation for classical music, an exceptional art form.
Because the tickets to the concert are only available through a raffle, it’s almost impossible to be a part of the live audience, therefore, watching the concert on TV is the next best thing. This year’s concert was once again hosted by Hugh Bonneville, the Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey. As the camera scans the music hall you are treated to:
- the beauty of the hall with its gilded ceilings and frescos of Apollo, the Greek god of music
- the magnificently carved mouldings and golden statues
- the sparkle of the many chandeliers
- the beauty of the “spring-like” flower arrangements
- the grace of the dancers from the Vienna State Ballet performing to Strauss waltzes
But mostly, it’s about the music…the perfection of the orchestra, the animation of the conductor (this year, Andris Nelsons of the Boston Symphony) and the genius of the composers featured.
This year’s musical program consisted of:
The highlight of the evening is in the Encores. When the orchestra starts with the first notes of the Blue Danube the audience erupts into thunderous applause. And always the fun part of the evening is when the conductor turns to the audience to include them with the orchestra in clapping during the Radetzky March.
For me, the conclusion of the New Year’s Concert in Vienna marks the end of the holiday season.
…there is comfort in knowing that, even in a complicated, divided world, music speaks a universal language for all mankind…