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The darkish beginnings of Vienna’s well-known New 12 months Live performance


A happy smile lit up the face of each listener, led to via the musical pleasure of the glorious waltz rhythms’. The reviewer’s feedback discuss with a ‘particular live performance’ fastened via the Vienna Philharmonic within the well-known Golden Corridor of town’s Musikverein at the morning of 31 December 1939, a Sunday. Billed as a ‘New 12 months’s Eve Live performance’, the development switched to at least one January in 1941, spawning an unbroken run of over 80 Vienna New 12 months live shows which continues to the current.

The date of that first live performance in 1939, the one one to not occur on New 12 months’s Day, is very important. Simply 4 months previous, the 2nd International Struggle had erupted, so the goal was once to boost morale a number of the German-speaking countries via broadcasting the Vienna live performance at the radio. Proceeds from price tag gross sales would, moreover, be donated to a ‘Kriegswinterhilfswerk’ (‘Wintry weather struggle aid scheme’) initiated via the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler.

And what higher option to elevate the spirits than the glowing, infectiously rhythmic track of Johann Strauss II, the ‘waltz king’ of Nineteenth-century Vienna? It now turns out an obtrusive selection, however it was once now not considered that method on the time. Massive sections of the orchestra disliked taking part in Strauss circle of relatives track, viewing it as mild and frivolous when set along Beethoven, Brahms or Bruckner.

Within the match, all ten pieces within the 1939 live performance – lasting about part so long as lately’s glitzy, well-heeled successor – have been via Johann Strauss Jr, and incorporated such well known items because the Emperor Waltz, Pizzicato-Polka and Stories from the Vienna Woods. Simply as attention-grabbing, then again, are the items now not carried out on that December morning, that have since grow to be immovable staples of the Vienna New 12 months enjoy.

There was once no Blue Danube Waltz, as an example – that was once first carried out on the 1945 live performance. Nor was once the Radetzky March incorporated – at the present time it’s invariably a crowd-pleasing encore, courteously clapped alongside to. In 1939, the scheduled live performance ended with the overture to Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus – ‘brilliantly performed’, as one newspaper recorded.

The conductor of that sensible efficiency was once the Austrian Clemens Krauss, and a flavour of the way the Vienna Philharmonic sounded beneath his baton will also be gleaned from his fantastically athletic recordings of Johann Strauss’s track. But the yearly match quickly changed into extra carefully entwined with the Nazis, particularly with the music-loving Baldur von Schirach, Vienna’s Gauleiter from 1940. In 1942, all over the Vienna Philharmonic’s centenary celebrations, Schirach was once awarded its ring of honour – later restored to him in 1966, in spite of his having been convicted of crimes in opposition to humanity on the Nuremberg trials together with the deportion of 65,000 Jews to focus camps.

The murky entanglements between the Vienna Philharmonic and the Nazi government – lots of its gamers have been celebration contributors – are actually said at the orchestra’s website online. One article posted there examines its pre-war purge of Jewish musicians, whilst some other notes how the New 12 months live shows initiated via Krauss have been temporarily co-opted as ‘a part of the Nazi regime’s propaganda-by-entertainment technique’.

After the struggle, Krauss himself, despite the fact that now not a Nazi celebration member, was once banned from engaging in till in the end denazified via Allied government in 1947. He carried out seven extra New 12 months live shows prior to his dying in 1954, when Willi Boskovsky (the Vienna Philharmonic’s long-standing concertmaster) took over.

Since Boskovsky stepped down in 1979, 15 other conductors – Herbert von Karajan, Riccardo Muti and Carlos Kleiber amongst them – have fastened the New 12 months podium, with as much as 50 million audience in 90 nations observing on tv. The primary ever Neujahrskonzert target audience in 1939, despite the fact that ‘vigorously applauding’ and smiling, may just indisputably by no means have imagined that. 

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