From 10.15 this morning (UK time) I listened (on BBC Radio 3) and watched (BBC Two, sound muted) – not synchronised if only a few seconds apart, DAB arriving first – this latest of the Vienna Philharmonic’s NYD Concerts, which proved to be a tonic, many smiles and a tangible bonhomie between maestro and musicians.
Riccardo Muti conducted the occasion for the sixth time (now one ahead of Zubin Mehta if a few behind the late Lorin Maazel, all following the double figures of Clemens Krauss, the first conductor of this event in 1939, and Willi Boskovsky) and he did so with energy and sensitivity, or sometimes nothing at all, happy to stand back, conjuring exhilaration and eloquence (plus a cuckoo and some birdsong). Of course, the Vienna Philharmonic played to the manner born a programme featuring not only The Strauss Family (Johann I & II and Josef) but also pieces by Komzák, Millöcker, Suppé and Zeller – a nice mix of things, familiar and less so, all good.
There was no audience in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein and the musicians were not socially-distanced, music-stands shared by string-players – however, all are Covid-tested on a daily basis.
I have no wish to steal my own thunder for when Sony Classical rush-release the concert, so this is an interim report. A few things though. Perhaps the musical highlight was a gloriously expansive con amore account of Johann II’s wonderful Emperor Waltz; Muti then made an inspiring speech (in English) aimed at World Leaders and governments about the importance of music for the mind; and rumours that Austrian Radio (ORF) was planning to add canned clapping thankfully proved unfounded (it would have been fake and insincere) although there was some applause but only at the end of the concert’s respective halves transmitted into the Hall (festooned with flowers) – from a signed-up selection of the live online worldwide audience. A technical wonder, I imagine, but it was good to hear the Radetzky March without the traditional rhythmic clapping.
Hopefully Sony will leave the concert exactly as it happened and also include Muti’s thoughtful words.
What is described as highlights from NYD 2021 is on BBC Four from 7 o’clock.*
2022? Daniel Barenboim.
*The broadcast turned out to be complete, a replica of the live BBC2 relay; a link to the latter follows: