New Year’s Day Concert 2021: The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform their traditional New Year’s Day concert
Petroc Trelawny hosts the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day Concert from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. In these uncertain times, the concert looks to send people all over the world a new year’s greeting in the spirit of hope, friendship and peace.
Having enjoyed a 50-year musical partnership with the Vienna Philharmonic, Riccardo Muti takes charge of the celebrations for the sixth time in what’s bound to be a uniquely poignant occasion. The concert includes the traditional mix of Austrian classics, featuring music by the Strauss family and ending with the ever-popular By the Beautiful Blue Danube and the foot-stamping Radetzky March.
New Year’s Day Concert 2021
The Vienna New Year’s Concert (Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker) is an annual concert of classical music performed by the Vienna Philharmonic on the morning of New Year’s Day in Vienna, Austria. The concert occurs at the Musikverein at 11:15. The orchestra performs the same concert programme on 30 December, 31 December, and 1 January but only the last concert is regularly broadcast on radio and television.
The concert programmes always include pieces from the Strauss family—Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss. On occasion, music principally of other Austrian composers, including Joseph Hellmesberger Jr., Joseph Lanner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Otto Nicolai (the Vienna Philharmonic’s founder), Emil von Reznicek, Franz Schubert, Franz von Suppé, and Carl Michael Ziehrer has featured in the programmes. In 2009, music by Joseph Haydn was played for the first time, where the 4th movement of his “Farewell” Symphony marked the 200th anniversary of his death. Other European composers such as Hans Christian Lumbye, Jacques Offenbach, Émile Waldteufel, Richard Strauss, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky have been featured in recent programmes.
The announced programme contains approximately 14-20 compositions, and also three encores. The announced programme includes waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, and marches. Of the encores, the unannounced first encore is often a fast polka. The second is Johann Strauss II’s waltz “The Blue Danube”, whose introduction is interrupted by applause of recognition and a New Year’s greeting from the conductor and orchestra to the audience. The final encore is Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March, during which the audience claps along under the conductor’s direction. In this last piece, the tradition also calls for the conductor to start the orchestra as soon he steps onto the stage, before reaching the podium. The complete duration of the event is around two and a half hours.
Riccardo Muti – New Year’s Day Concert 2021
He currently holds two music directorships, at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and at the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini. He has previously held posts at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Muti has been a prolific recording artist, and has received dozens of honours, titles, awards and prizes. He is especially associated with the music of Giuseppe Verdi.
Muti has been a regular guest of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1996 he conducted the latter during Vienna Festival Week and on tour to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Germany; he most recently toured with the Vienna Philharmonic to Japan in 2008. Muti has also led the orchestra’s globally televised Vienna New Year’s Concert on several occasions: in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2018, and 2021.
A special relationship connects Muti with the Salzburg Festival, where the conductor debuted in 1971 with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (staged by Ladislav Stros). In the following years Muti has been constantly present at the festival, conducting both numerous concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and opera productions, such as Così fan tutte (staged by Michael Hampe) from 1982 to 1985 and from 1990 to 1991, La clemenza di Tito (staged by Peter Brenner) in 1988 and 1989, Don Giovanni (staged by Michael Hampe) in 1990 and 1991, La traviata (staged by Lluis Pasqual, and designed by Luciano Damiani) in 1995, The Magic Flute in 2005 (staged by Graham Vick) and 2006 (staged by Pierre Audi, stage designed by Karel Appel), Otello (staged by Stephen Langridge) in 2008, Moise et Pharaon (staged by Jürgen Flimm) in 2009, and Orfeo ed Euridice (staged by Dieter Dorn) in 2010. In 2011, Muti conducted a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth, which was directed by Peter Stein. For the 2017 Salzburg Festival, he conducted Aida, directed by Shirin Neshat. Muti also owns a residence close to Salzburg.
The Blue Danube
“The Blue Danube” is the common English title of “An der schönen, blauen Donau”, Op. 314 (German for “On the Beautiful Blue Danube”), a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. Originally performed on 15 February 1867 at a concert of the Wiener Männergesangsverein (Vienna Men’s Choral Association), it has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire. Its initial performance was considered only a mild success, however, and Strauss is reputed to have said, “The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success!”
After the original music was written, the words were added by the Choral Association’s poet, Joseph Weyl. Strauss later added more music, and Weyl needed to change some of the words. Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the 1867 Paris World’s Fair, and it became a great success in this form. The instrumental version is by far the most commonly performed today. An alternate text was written by Franz von Gernerth, “Donau so blau” (Danube so blue). “The Blue Danube” premiered in the United States in its instrumental version on 1 July 1867 in New York, and in the UK in its choral version on 21 September 1867 in London at the promenade concerts at Covent Garden.
The waltz The Blue Danube was not performed until 1945, and then as an encore. The Radetzky March was first performed in 1946, as an encore. Until 1958, these last two pieces were often but not always given as encores. Since that year, their position as twin encores has become inviolable tradition on New Year’s Day Concert 2021