Vienna New Year's Day concert scores record ratings

Vienna New Year's Day concert scores record ratings


norman lebrecht

January 03, 2012

Figures just in show the highest viewer ratings since 2003 for the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert, with a 64 percent share of the Austrian viewership at 1.136 million, and millions more around the world.

© ORF / Photographer: Günther Pichl Kostner

Just shows what you can do without women in the Philharmonic … The Austrian press makes no mention of the sex discrimination issues.

Next year, unless things change, it will be ohne mich, ohne mich....


  • Duncan Reed says:

    To be realistic, having more women in the concert isn’t going to affect ratings or anything about it, but it does seem rather surprising that the VPO cannot find more appoint able women players who would ‘fit in’…they are seemingly the guardians of some kind of grail, in their estimation.

  • Duncan Reed says:

    What about a female conductor to show the way? Is there anyone genuinely up to it though (to avoid its being labelled tokenistic)?

    • Robbie Ellis says:

      Simone Young, although born Australian, has the German-musical-world credentials no doubt.

      I’m sure the answer must be no, but has the VPO ever played under a female conductor?

      • Carmen Studer Weingartner conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in 1935. Simone Young led the VPO in a day time proms style concert where there was no seating and the audience stood. Hardly a regular event, so I’m not sure it should count.

        Simone Young has also led productions at the Staatsoper where the VPO functions as the Staatsoper orchestra. The administration picks the conductors, not the orchestra. This does not actually count as leading the VPO. BTW, she led one production when she was five months pregnant.

        And Anne Manson conducted the Salzburger Festspiel Orchestra several years ago, which is Vienna Philharmonic under yet another name. The Festspiel selects the conductors, not the VPO. Ms. Manson mentioned on a bio that she had conducted the Vienna Phil and so the orchestra issued a press release saying she hadn’t, and that it was the Festspiel Orchestra.

  • There is an error in the number you quote, because in the German speaking world people use a comma instead of a dot for decimal point ratios. So when the article says, “Im Schnitt 1,136 Millionen Zuschauer verfolgten die 53. Übertragung des Neujahrskonzerts aus dem Wiener Musikverein auf ORF 2” they actually mean 1.136 million (or 1,136,000.) That’s more than 1 out of every 8 of the 8 million people in Austria.

    The most common estimate for the concert’s worldwide public is 50 million people in about 72 countries. This number is used in determining royalties, so the concert is a windfall for the musicians.

  • Adam says:

    Couple of brief points:

    1) If women are offended by their high-profile and unapologetic exclusion from the VPO, where are their protests? I understand WIlliam O’s dedicated objection, but he’s not a woman! If women feel this way – where are they? Surely they have voices of their own?

    2) If women do feel this way themselves, why not prove everyone in the VPO wrong, and form your own women-only orchestra which plays that repertoire better than the VPO? It hasn’t happened. Then I will eat humble pie and large amounts of it, but we all know that isn’t going to happen, especially after a showing like we had a couple of days ago which would take some-beating (in my humble opinion for what its worth!) by many a “great” orchestra.

    Its a storm in a tea-cup generated and promulgated by handwringing lefty moralists – usually men – who can’t help themselves looking over other people’s shoulders all the time and being anatomically unable to resist moralising and interfering with all the perceived ills of the world. Its rather like that wonderful Harry Enfield character a few years ago “I do not believe you wanted to do that…” The absolute self-belief that they and they alone are morally right and that if you dare raise your voice against them, they never respond on a factual basis, its always a withering personal blast aimed at demeaning the opponent by smearing them with hints of facism etc. But never able to answer on the facts.

    If you don’t like it – no one’s forcing you to watch it. Not everyone in the world is the same. People are different and thank God for it. You can;t preach a doctrine of social diversity on the one hand and then say “ah – but only within the frame of diversity that I deem appropriate” in the same breath. If you are going to be truly diverse and liberal and free, that sometimes means allowing people to congregate who you may not like. You hope to defeat them by exposing their poorer qualities. As long the VPO play like that – you ain’t got a hope cos there’s no hole in their armour. They walk the walk.

    As Strauss would say “freut euch des lebens…”

    • ATorre says:

      Many thanks for a lucid view clearly articulated. As a woman with a fairly large international group of friends of high level professional women in varied fields (and being spouses and mothers at the same time!) we do have a delightful time seeing how (some) men agitate to defend our rights as seen by them. In the Western civilization we thankfully do have all the constitutional and social possibilities to look after ourselves and those some men would be surprised to learn that we can live wonderfully at peace with an all- male Caucasian VPO even if we are musicians, doctors, airline pilots, high level politicians, quantum physicians, authors or simply muses. Please take a look around and stop considering women as a minority to be defended by the generous-minded part of the majority of humanity. There are no good points to be earned.. – Evviva the Wiener Philharmoniker wie sie sind!

      • As I note below, women have been the main force behind the protests. I just saw a blog entitled “The Thinking Housewife” that also has an entry attacking the VPO protests. The author, Laura Wood, also has some interesting (if bizarre) thoughts about why she thinks women should be discriminated against. See it here:

      • Emil Archambault says:


        Maybe you don’t feel discriminated. But female musicians deserve to be judged on their art, not their gender.

        “In the Western civilization we thankfully do have all the constitutional and social possibilities to look after ourselves ”
        In this case, the social possibility is denied and the constitutional possibility is not present.

        “we can live wonderfully at peace with an all- male Caucasian VPO”
        Maybe you can, as a spectator; the female musicians who are rejected from the VPO clearly cannot, as their rights are denied on the basis of disgusting prejudices. Of course, as a listener, I care about the artistic result; However, the good moral citizen ought to be able to look through the perspective of others and not only his own. Morality is universal, not personal.

        I do not “[consider] women as a minority”. Rather, women are equal to men (in number and in status); women ought to be recognized as such and not ranked as inferior to men because of their gender.

    • Emil Archambault says:

      “being anatomically unable to resist moralising”
      OK, this is just so stupid that I won’t comment on your degrading and disgusting prejudices. However, I’ll try to address your points in order.

      1) Why don’t women protest?
      Because they want to get IN the orchestra, not tear it down. For the same reason you don’t go and tell your boss he’s a moron. The leadership of the VPO has almost unlimited power regarding admissions; speaking against them can jeopardize your admission forever.

      2) Why don’t they start their own women-only orchestra?
      Because they do not want to destroy the VPO, nor do they want to show they (women) are better than men; rather, they simply want to be treated as equals, not as artistic dangers. Besides, the creation of another discriminating orchestra (women-only) would be counterproductive. The argument is that sex IS A DIFFERENCE THAT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE in artistic matters. Of course, women and men are not identical; however, the gender has no bearing on the ability to make beautiful music and be part of a successful orchestra; at any rate, I am still waiting for a scientific demonstration of these biological differences in art (not in the form of empty prejudiced statements like yours).

      3) The problem with the VPO is not (only) the absence of women, but rather the method and the arguments used to exclude women. The VPO claims women are excluded because of their inability to play like men, which is simply not true. Arguing that men play better than women because of their gender is a disgusting prejudice which is based on no empirical evidence. The VPO’s claim that it is the best orchestra in the world because it does not include women is simply disguised sexism.

      We cannot ignore the problem and just claim it is not there. If the VPO wants to be a white male orchestra, let them speak up publicly, renounce state funding and cease to claim to represent the whole of Viennese culture (and classical music as a whole). If they claim to be simply a great orchestra, let them act like a great orchestra, taking the best musicians, regardless of race, sex and any other discriminating factor. Let art be the sole criteria.

  • Surely the right woman for next year’s concert is Marin Alsop. No token gesture there!

    • The principal force behind the protests has been the International Alliance for Women in Music. Without their backing, my efforts would have amounted to nothing. See:

      • ATorre says:

        Some missing women from the list of members of the IAWM: Argerich, Mutter, Otter, Montero, Hahn, Grimaud, Wang, Netrebko, Frittoli, Aslop, Young, Pires, Haïm, Kopatchinskaja, Balzereit, Tilling, Hewitt, McDermott, Kupiecz, Fang, Banse ….. and on and on, some Weltstars, some well known, some in the making of a name, all at different stages of development and renown, none feeling the necessity to regroup under the banner of their womanhood to this way make benefit the “others” of their experience. True enough, they are -mostly – no group members or orchestra players. As singling out the Wiener Philharmoniker for gender and race balance in their rangs seems to become a pc game (see a.o. the San Francisco Chronicle “review” during their last tour in the US – wonderful exemple of trash journalism) , let us remember once more that among the thousands of orchestras world-wide, this is The One (with the Berliner in changing and lesser form ) wishing to hold on tightly to its original image. Female orchestra musicians have a world of choice to audition for posts which could make up for the one and only exception. In no professional field does everyone have the identical chances to advance. Reasons vary, the fact remains. Evviva die Wiener Philharmoniker wie sie sind!

  • Adam says:

    In the words of Peter Cook (?) “What we need now is a pointless and empty gesture to buck-up morale.”

    I vote Katherine Jenkins to conduct next year and show all these schnitzel eating brutes how horrible they are.

  • richard says:

    If its good enough for Beyonce to have an all female band …..

    • AVI says:

      Not to mention Andre Rieu’s largely female (at least the colourfully dressed musicians you can see; the few gents being hidden away in black obscurity) ensemble…

      That reminds me, surely “Bond” should have been forced to open auditions for a male member, instead of four females; likewise numerous other groups of that ilk. And what about string quartets on cruise ships, tending to divide equally between sexes or all-one in order to be able to share rooms? Dear me; once you start to look for it, this sex discrimination thing is rife!

      • Emil Archambault says:

        André Rieu, Beyoncé and bond are commercial enterprises with no state funding. Besides, the musicians are hired directly, without audition process.

        The VPO has a formal audition process which is supposed to guarantee everyone a fair chance, but then claims that no woman is good enough to pass the audition. That’s discrimination.

        • richard says:

          Emil so discrimination is fine as long as its private?

        • AVI says:

          I’d assume that Beyonce’s crew do undergo some sort of audition process – there’s no way an act that big would just hire indiscriminately. It just might not be the sort of audition process you had in mind. A similar process for an act like Bond is likely to be followed to; except that men might be excluded from the very audition process entirely.

          You shouldn’t assert that “no woman is good enough” to pass a VPO audition – it is demonstrably untrue as they have a number of female members. It may not be as many as you’d wish, but they are there. Or are you suggesting that those few aren’t really good enough, but they let them in just to try and keep complaints down?

          What about the orchestras in the UK who hire extra players without a (formal) audition process? Are they exempt from your rules, or does public funding trump the audition process?
          What if a choral society hires players for an orchestra – that’s privately funded, and not auditioned. Does that mean they are allowed to discriminate? I mean, if on those criteria you are happy for Rieu’s band to do it, why not?