The Thinking 

The New Year with Strauss

January 6, 2013


I WAS away for a week during the Christmas season, taking care of a sick aunt in Florida, so I did not get a chance to watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day concert, which takes place in the magnificent Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. Fortunately, the concert, conducted this year by Franz Welser-Möst, can be seen in its entirety, complete with the famous Strauss waltzes, online at PBS until Jan. 16.

See my previous post on the Vienna Philharmonic, which has resisted feminization and multiculturalism in an era when most Western orchestras have been dramatically transformed by the entry of large numbers of women and Asians. As I wrote before:

The Philharmonic did not allow women to become full members until 1997. Between 1997 and 2010, a period during which many other orchestras became heavily female, it hired only three women. Paul Fürst, a violist, once stated in a documentary on women conductors:

There is no ban on women musicians playing here but the Vienna Philharmonic is by tradition an all-male orchestra. Our profession makes family life extremely difficult, so for a woman it’s almost impossible. There are so many orchestras with women members so why shouldn’t there be – for how long I don’t know – an orchestra with no women in it … A woman shouldn’t play like a man but like a woman, but an all-male orchestra is bound to have a special tone.

In America, the first violin sections of major orchestras do not look like this anymore:

—- Comments —-

Michael S. writes:

Prosit Neujahr!

The Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philhamoniker is possibly the most civilized event of the entire year.

That PBS video you linked is actually not the whole concert — it’s just the whole PBS broadcast. They present an abridged — and re-arranged — form of the concert. The piece they opened with — the Sphären-Klänge Walzer by Josef Strauss — was actually the first piece of the second half of the program.

Starting last year, I’ve made an effort to get up at 5 a.m. to listen live and record the ORF broadcast. I enjoy listening to the German commentary between pieces. I got a new recorder recently, so this year I was all digital, so I got a better result. I always buy the CD (or from iTunes) when it becomes available, because the audio quality is better.

Laura writes:

Thank you for the correction.

The CD can be purchased at the Philharmonic’s site.

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