classical music

Vienna Philharmonic’s Strauss Family Concert Review

Franz Welser Most conducts Wien Philharmoniker 2022. Music Press Asia

The Golden Hall’s full beauty shines on 1 Jan 2023 when the musicians under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst is featured in Vienna’s New Year’s Concert performing for millions of television viewers around the world. A timely concert at the end of the year to promote hope, friendship and peace.

There is no question about the global success of the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Concert. Because its legacy and reach rest on five pillars: a splendid orchestra; internationally acclaimed conductors; a priceless repertoire, by the Strauss family and other composers of the 19th century; a splendid venue of the gilded Musikverein; and TV broadcasts watched most recently by some 1.2 million people in 92 countries on five continents.

As the year 2022 drawed to an end, the staff at Music Press Asia knew of only a few things that will be happening when the clock strikes New Year. In our journalistic minds for the greater good of music, it is not about the party of the eve, nor the present opening time underneath any Christmas tree. The fact that we already knew about the progress, did not help. We want to make sure that New Year’s Day has to be about watching the live performance of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year concert.

As we followed their progress (Vienna Philharmonic’s Facebook feed has been a serene flow of images citing the preparation behind ‘closed doors’), the excitement grew. And since this would be Music Press Asia’s first piece of 2023, we all knew this is going to be special.

The Pausenfilm features the 150 Years World Expo Vienna. The film is a travelogue in the hear 1873. Music Press Asia
[The Pausenfilm features the 150 Years World Expo Vienna. The film is a travelogue in the hear 1873. Image credit: Vienna Philharmonic Facebook ]

“Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year concert goes beyond Strauss’ waltz. It celebrates tradition, great talent, and exquisite taste of classic artistry. The event itself and watching it live from anywhere in the world truly epitomizes the spirit of the city. Its historical charm comes hand-in-hand with music, science and dance. I’m blown away by their precision and skill,” says Monica Tong, music editor of Music Press Asia.

For about 3 hours, the Vienna Philharmonic, the ballet sequences and the choral singing only left us gasping for air. Not because we were in a room full of stuffed animals, but in awe and sweet surprise of its grandeur, beauty and magnificent performances.

If there needs to be a quick summary of what the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year concert is all about. Then it has to be about the fast polka, heroic poems and sonically magnified brass section.

When it is time to show the graceful movement of the conductor maestro, we marvel at his genteel gesture – stamping both of his feet as if the manner would surely plant his feet deeper into the ground.

Efforts to showcase the floral decorations by Vienna Parks and Gardens Department was a great success. The Golden Hall of the Musikverein Wien saw over 30,000 flowers decorated at the 83rd New Year’s Concert. Pastel shades of various types of flowers – including anthuriums, carnations, roses, or orchids. Delicate pink, orange, and light green – were used.

In 2023, then, the orchestra aims to broadcast not just a rich tradition, but also a message of peace.

Flowers at Wien Philharmonia Neujahr konzert 2022. Music Press Asia
[Flowers at Wien Philharmonia Neujahr konzert 2022. Music Press Asia]

While we the editorial team made it a point to watch the whole show together no matter where we are, it was the dance that brought us together. Strauss has proved to us – time and again – that dance can’t lose its natural rhythmic pulsation of waltz, a moment in time when dance and music merge.

Franz Welser-Möst the conductor made a striking impression, especially in the ‘Pausenfilm’ produced by ORF. Shown during the intermission of the New Year’s concert, the conductor introduces the film that was dedicated to the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Vienna World’s Fair.

The musical journey takes viewers back to 1873, when the imperial capital was transformed into a cosmopolitan metropolis. Starting at the Musikverein Wien, the film resurrects historical settings such as the fair’s prestige building, the legendary Prater Rotunda, in exceptional animations, which serve as the stage for the performing ensembles of our orchestra.

Tisch der Nationels, one of the sections from the film, displayed food and beautifully decorated dishes from all over the world accompanied by a Tulsa band.

The “Pausenfilm” will be available on DVD & Blu-Ray, which will be released on January 27, 2023.

Wiener Philharmoniker Neujahr konzert 2022. Music Press Asia
[The Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Franz Welser-Moest during the New Year’s Concert 2023 in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein.]

Two days ago, the Philharmoniker announced that the New Year’s Concert 2024 will be performed under the baton of Maestro Christian Thielemann. Christian Thielemann has enjoyed a close musical partnership with our orchestra since 2000 and conducted his first Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert in 2019.

Thielemann leads the orchestra regularly in subscription concerts in the Vienna Musikverein, at the Salzburg Festival, and on tour in Japan, China, Europe, and the USA. Following a benchmark recording of the complete Beethoven Symphonies, Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic embarked on a project – during the pandemic – to record the complete Bruckner Symphonies. This recorded cycle of all 11 Bruckner symphonies, a first in Philharmonic recording history, will be released in the Bruckner Anniversary Year 2024.

You can still watch the New Year’s Concert on the ORF TV-Thek, or listen to it on Ö1. For further opportunities to watch the event on television, please check with your national broadcaster for the exact time and date.

Written by Benjamin Zulkifli and Monica Tong, updated on 3 January, 2023.

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