Yesterday I watched my favourite New Year’s Day programme – the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year concert in Vienna. As I watched, I tried to write a ‘live blog’. I didn’t publish it straight away and that’s probably just as well as it turns out that live blogging is quite difficult. Especially with a recalcitrant iPad (see below). I have tidied the text up but what you see below is pretty much what I wrote yesterday. I hope you enjoy reading it and have mercy on he whose first drafts are not very good!
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Day concert has just started. It is a sugary confection of Strauss compositions and I love it. Every year, the VPO perform with a guest conductor. This year it is Daniel Barenboim.
As the VPO launch into their first piece – Johann Strauss, Jr’s overture to his Operetta “Waldmeister” – for the TV cameras (the concert proper began an hour ago) we get a lovely new camera position – right in front of Barenboim. Not only do we get to see the maestro up close but the camera affords us a lovely view of the golden hall where the orchestra is playing.
The overture ended in rousing fashion. This lively ending was continued in the next piece – Johann Jr’s gallop opus 466 Klipp-Klapp.
The gallop ends as quickly as it began. We come to Johann Jr’s opus 325 – Tales from the Vienna Woods. The camera cuts to lush shots of Austrian woods.
As I watch and write I am experiencing very contrary emotions. I love the Viennese concerts for their beauty. This is augmented by the ballet dancing and fairy tale scenes of castles and woods that the cameras break to. I can’t tell you how annoying my iPad is being at the moment, though. I am writing these words in Pages. Ever since I downloaded the iOS7 upgrade, Pages has opened unacceptably slowly. I can’t wait for MS office to come out for the iPad. Or indeed, for Apple to repair the hash they have made of their upgrade which, as well as messing up the apps, is also ugly.
Anyway, back to the concert. Delightful money shots of baroque churches under bright blue skies, golden caryatids and rich green leaves.
We leave the outdoors to explore someone’s rather grand house. There is even a crown lying about!
Close up of a female member of the orchestra. Once upon a time the VPO didn’t have any (didn’t permit any?) so it’s always interesting to see how many there are on the stage. If it is a half dozen we are doing well.
Sweet use of the citha. The outdoor shots, apparently were of a monastery near the city.
The next composition is by someone called Josef Hellmesberger, Jr who, the announcer says, is on the programme every year. I must pay more attention. Hellmesberger gives us our first polka of the morning – française (op. 1).
As the camera moves a round the hall we get to see that it is decked with pink and red flowers. A lovely compliment. The orchestra, by the way, is formally attired. The audience is by no means scruffy itself, though I am told it once dressed more formally than it is today. Having said that, I just caught a sight of a woman in a beautiful evening gown.
I mentioned the flowers just in time. Hellmesberger gives way to Josef Strauss’ (opus 188) Bouquet Polka. Close ups of the flowers reveal yellow and purple colours as well. Sumptuous. Every year, they are gifted to the VPO. This year, however, the VPO gifted them to itself. That’s quite meta.
We now come to Richard Strauss and his Moonlight Music, which is part of his opera Capriccio. The camera closes up on a bronze bust of RS and for a second he seems to look a bit like David Niven.
I spot another female musician. Like the first, she is wearing trousers. I wonder if that’s the fashion or the rule? The latter wouldn’t surprise me. Outside, thunder rolls. That’s outside my house.
Hello to Joseph Lanner and his opus 167 – The romantics, a waltz. And here are our first two ballet dancers. Man in black tails and white tights, woman in a big white dress that would pass as a wedding dress. She has a fixed smile which, if she was not so beautiful, would look a bit creepy.
Speaking of creepy, the male dancer appears to have white face paint on. I immediately thought of Bono when he was doing his Mephistopheles act.
Our second pair of dancers have white tails and an aqua blue dress. Suddenly, we dart to the third pair. The chap is in all black and the woman an ill looking yellow. I think the man has that white face paint on, it isn’t complimentary. The gilded chamber they are dancing in is, though.
My ballet cup is now overflowing as a fourth pair appear. The man is once more in black. His partner, though has a a dark red dress. I like that one.
Ahh the couples join up with another and the. All together under a magnificent golden chandelier.
Two more polkas now. Both by Josef Strauss. The first is called Teasing (op 262). A good and solid piece of music. No more for me, though. We now have a poka called Shenanigans (op 98). It is appropriately fast and is over very quickly.
How much Strauss family music has the New Year’s Day concert in the 74 years of its existence? Less than 50% we are told. They were busy people!
For this piece we go to Leo Delibes and a dance from the Ballet “Sylvia”. The ballet dancers are, frankly, very oddly dressed. Short skirts and kilts. I’ll be honest, they look rather chavvy.
Apparently, the outfits were designed by Vivienne Westwood, which explains everything.
Back to Josef Strauss. The Dynamiden waltz. Opus 173.
Daniel Barenboim has loosened his collar. Nary sign of a tie, anywhere.
I suddenly realise that there was background noise as the Xbox turns itself off.
Actually, I’m not sure if I really like the new camera angle on Barenboim. He sticks out to much from the audience. It makes me feel like they are a green screen background.
Josef Strauss once again – fast polka called Without a Care (Opus 271). Did I hear correctly? He wrote it just before his death? It is certainly a carefree tune and, rather excitingly, features the orchestra shouting Ha! Ha! Ha! At strategic moments.
And that’s the official end of the concert!
Barenboim is given a bouquet and smoothly starts handing them out to the female members. The announcer says there are nine women in the VPO now.
First encore. Josef Strauss. A fast polka based on horse riding. It’s a very jolly tune with added tambourine. It debuted after Vienna lost a battle in the Franco-Prussian war. Oops.
We now come to the heart of the concert – the Blue Danube. A hashtag appears on the screen – #prosit2014. What can it mean?
I wonder how many members of the VPO know what a hashtag is?
We leave the orchestra to a couple of dancers in tuxedo and lovely white dress with black flower prints on it.hey look very happy to be dancing on top of the landing of their house.
The male dancer picks his partner up and swings her round at speed between two pillars. Tense moment as I start to worry he’ll hit one of the poles!
Ahh. Now they enter the hall where the concert is taking place. This trick has bee. Done before but it is no worse for it, very sweet.
Second encore. Josef Strauss’ Radestzky March. Before it kicks off, though, the announcer tells us that the concert is sponsored by Rolex. Well, it was never going to be the Poundshop.
Drums and claps set the March off.
Barenboim goes around the orchestra shaking hands! He’ll never make it as a pro if he continues to be so unprofessional.
He’s still making his way round the orchestra
After being hushed the audience starts clapping again, some more enthusiastically than others. Perhaps they are jealous not to be getting greeting and / or kissed
And there it is. The real end of the show. Super!
There is such a high demand for tickets that they are sold by lot. I’d love to attend. Or even just to be in Vienna at this time of year. For now, though, I’ll settle for TV.