The ‘attend versus watch it on tv’ debate does not apply to the Vienna traditional New Years Day concert as tickets are gold dust, so I watch it every year on tv. This year they added a short film of an attractive young blonde girl on a bicycle touring the Belvedere and Leopold museums to see the Klimts and von Schieles and sketching some of the fine monuments.
The concert itself takes place at the magnificent Musikverein but the dancing is staged in the Schoenbrunn Palace and Riding School.
The orchestra, the Vienna Philarmonic conducted by Riccardo Muti, played Johann and Richard Strauss, the popular stuff, but also the Von Suppe overture to his operetta Boccaccio and the William Tell overture. The programme suited the illustrious milieu. I had not seen Riccardo Muti in the flesh for some 30 years. With his flowing black hair and strong facial features he was something of a stylish ladies man 30 years ago. The hair, whilst still long, is now grey, his elegant suit did not disguise his pudginess. His conducting can tend to the theatrical and is sometimes too pacy but the orchestra – one of the finest in the world – were at its best for their big day.
The New Years Day concert began in 1830 and is long associated with the Strauss family. Johann Strauss III was once the orchestra conductor. In 1939 it was – with the approval of the Gauleiter Baldur von Schach – used to inspire the Nazi Winter War effort. To get a ticket you must register a year in advance and then it goes to a ballot.
I was last in Vienna, my first visit, in October 2016. I enjoyed seeing its formal cafes, splendid architecture and the film tour of the The Third Man.
My travelling companion was a lady of some elegance who was rather aghast when, having presented herself in a trimly-cut Ted Baker coat, I informed her that she might be lowered down a manhole to the sewers as this where the last 15 minutes of the Carol Reed classic was shot.
She was much relieved when instead at the end we repaired to a cafe for sachertorte to the accompaniment of the zither and the Anton Karasch theme of The Third Man.