One of the most famous concerts in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Day Concert from the fabulous Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikvierein dates back to 1939. This was the first and only time the concert was not held on New Year’s Day but on December 31st of that year. Clemens Krauss conducted and Johann Strauss Junior was the only composer performed. The concert was preceded by a public dress rehearsal the day before. It has now become traditional to have a public dress rehearsal on December 30th, a New Years’ Eve Concert and the New Years’ Day morning Concert which is televised in more than 50 countries.

For the first 15 years the conducting was shared between Krauss and Josef Krips, then Willi Boskovsky conducted every year until 1979. Lorin Maazil, another maestro equally at home with a violin in hand, took over until 1986, and in 1987, the great Herbert von Karajan took to the podium on New Year`s Day for the only time. Since then the baton has changed hands annually between renowned international top maestros. This years concert was conducted by the Venezuelan, Gustavo Dudamel, who, as the youngest conductor of these concerts, also conducts  many other international orchestras, including the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra which has played at the Proms in London.

The music always includes pieces from the Strauss family (Johann Strauss Senior and sons Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss) with occasional pieces from mostly Austrian composers. Usually the com-positions include waltzes, polkas, mazurkas and marches.There are usually about a dozen pieces played plus encores and the complete duration of the concert, including intervals, is around two and a half hours. 1953 heard the first radio broadcast; 1959 the first television and 1969 the first Eurovision broadcast.

Sources indicate that encores were not introduced into the concerts until 1945. Nowadays it is traditional to end the concert with three encores. The first is a fast polka, the second is The Blue Danube Waltz, whose introduction is interrupted by applause of recognition by the audience. The musicians then collectively wish the audience a happy new year, play the Blue Danube and close with the Radetzky March. During this last festive piece, the audience participates with the traditional clap-along, and the conductor turns to the audience in time to conduct them instead of the orchestra.

Surprisingly, The Blue Danube waltz was only introduced into the programme for the first time in 1945, as an encore and the Radetsky March entered the programme in 1946, again as an encore. Exceptions to the closing tradition have happened occasionally. In 1967 Willi Boskovsky made the Blue Danube Waltz part of his concert pro-gramme and in 2005 Lorin Maazel concluded his programme with it (The Radetsky March was skipped) as a mark of respect to the victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake.

The flowers that decorate the hall are often a gift each year from the city of Sanremo, Liguria, Italy, but this year, from the members of the Vienna Philharmonic.The orchestra is joined by ballet dancers from the Vienna State Opera Company, in pieces during the second part of the programme.

The concert is popular throughout the world and the demand for tickets so high that people need to register one year in advance in order to participate in the draw for tickets the following year. Some seats are reserved by Austrian families and passed down from generation to generation.

H.Rogerson