Andris Nelsons plays trumpet at Vienna’s New Year concert

Andris Nelsons plays trumpet at Vienna’s New Year concert


norman lebrecht

January 01, 2020

Well, here’s a first.

A conductor who can blow it with the best of them.

My Twitter feed is full of it.



  • Rob says:

    There was a wrong note in the brass in Blue Danube. Nelson’s is sweating like a pig and that velour/velvet suit isn’t helping.

  • It was a very good performance. Better with no doubts than Thielmann last year. For me better than Dudamel 3 years ago. But he will need time to be good the first of January as Georges Pretre Mariss and of course the king of the first of January Zubin!

    • david hilton says:

      With the Georges Pretre name-check here, we’ve pretty much exhausted the list of trumpet players who evolved into conductors.

      • clarrieu says:

        Are you kidding? There are some more !

      • fflambeau says:

        Gerard Schwarz was first trumpet with the NY Philharmonic. He’s a great and innovative conductor.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        The late Kenneth Schermerhorn was an orchestral trumpet player before he became a conductor. Now and then he’d play trumpet at Milwaukee Symphony fundraising events, as a novelty. I suspect he was never in Gerard Schwarz’s league as a trumpet player, however.

    • Melisande says:

      Please, get their names right, viz. Christian Thielemann, Mariss Jansons and George Pretre (with an accent circonflexe on the first e ^.

    • Siegfriend says:

      I don’t think many would agree….

  • Kypros Markou says:

    Remember Lorin Maazel playing violin and on one occasion percussion?

    • Greg Bottini says:

      I remember those occasions well, Kypros.
      Maazel looked like he was having fun when he conducted the New Year’s concerts, and the various recordings from those Maazel-led events are some of the finest.

  • NOrbert says:

    He looks more like Orson Welles with every appearance.

  • sam says:

    Did all the principal players decide to take the day off?

    Nelsons wore his Christmas pajamas to be more comfortable conducting. He’s too young to be so out of shape.

    Yet he took some of the most aggressive rhythms I’ve heard in these concerts, tempi that he could’ve never danced to.

    His trumpet solo was not at the tempo the orchestra was playing at.

    Oh well, what a way to end the decade.

  • John says:

    Well it seems the New Year hasn’t changed the quality of the comment section here. This appalling cesspool of negativity, mean-spiritedness, and outright trolling continues to make a mockery of what is attempting to be a serious website driven by news. Perhaps a New Years resolution of hiring a moderator to clean these comments up could be in order.

    • Mick the Knife says:

      But people keep coming back for more…

    • Terence VanVliet says:

      Thank you, John, and yes let’s clean up the ever-deepening swamp this forum has become.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        And how do you propose to do that? Are you offering to pay for extra moderators?

        • MacroV says:

          Extra? That implies there is one. How about going the unpaid intern route?

        • FrauGeigerin says:

          It seems like this guy, John, doesn’t want the opinions he doesn’t agree with on the comment section. He wants just the opinion he agrees with. I wonder where he is from…

          • John says:

            Your opinions, as much as I find them disagreeably stated and cynical, are not my problem. My problem is with the slanderous and irrelevant commentary that is so often made in this comment section. Is calling a conductor fat really what this website needs to be featuring and implicitly endorsing by allowing it to stay up? How about the myriad racist and prejudiced comments that appear here on a nearly daily basis? The internet is already a dark place – this site could be a place where only news is posted and could be discussed in a respectful and civil manner.

          • Goody says:

            Oh John, you goody goody man. Move on to already!

        • FreeSpeech Defense Legue in Art-related matters says:

          No, do not give in to the pressure to install a global forum-police, of what good taste and the correct view should be.

          The forum is what it is: I like it this way.
          Anyone who reads it, has actively decided to do so.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Norman. I think you are doing a fine job moderating.

          Yes, there is a lively debate, and yes, there are vituperative and spiteful remarks (which I rather were not there). But every now and again someone gets booted off and you more-or-less ensure things don’t get completely out of control.

      • Cubs Fan says:

        You think this site is a cesspool or swamp? Compared to a lot of other sites out there, including music ones, this is one calm, polite, respectful place. Whether you agree with a comment or not, or find one offensive, at least there’s comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one in the world still interested in classical music.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Like thought police?

    • Jon says:

      You are so right!

    • Bruce says:

      In an ever-changing and unpredictable world, isn’t it nice to have one thing you can depend on? LOL.

    • Maria says:

      Yes, that would be a good idea. In the main, too many arrogant armchair expert males on here who think they know it all, and can only mock behind anonymous names. It becomes extremely boring, and it would pay to think before you troll as to whether some of these comments would be said to their faces? Who cares if someone plays a wrong note in the brass ?

  • Player says:

    Carlos Kleiber played an instrument (which one?) in 1992…

  • It was a very good performance. no doubts. It was better than Dudamel and of course Thielmann (Vienna the first of january is not Bayreuth the first of August)but it was a little bit bellow the giants Harnoncourt Pretre Janson and the king Zubin. He will comes back in 10 years it will be better.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    The New Year’s concert is what it perpetually is. Either watch it or don’t. To this untutored ear it was the same as ever, whoever is on the podium, tedious. But, it offers some ‘culture’, however low, on the BBC and as such we should be grateful for whatever small virtues they now condescend to put up.

    • Maria says:

      Yes, it would be the same if thee were no conductor. That orchestra is well able to play that stuff on their own. But you need a personality with a bit of fun to humour that audience and conduct their robotic clapping participation – like the Promenaders in London on the last night, except they are more alive and less pretentious. No one has to watch either!

  • MacroV says:

    He was a pretty accomplished trumpeter, so not such a stretch. And nice to add a little variety to the show.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    I was at the Musikverein during the concert. It was an OK NJK, but Nelsons was just terrible. I don’t know how people can actually call what he does ‘conducting’.

    Since he played trumpet in an orchestra, he should know better what an orchestra needs from the conductor and deliver that. In this world mediocrities can have great careers when they produce money for agents and recording companies…

    I am looking forward to the excellent Muti next year. Muti always delivers… and he never played in an orchestra!

    • C Porumbescu says:

      You really have never spoken to a single musician who’s played under Nelsons, have you?

    • Bruce says:

      I am not very familiar with how his conducting looks, but I am enjoying how it sounds (e.g. Brahms cycle with the Boston Symphony). Does that matter?

    • Maria says:

      Muti will just be waving his arms around again, and the orchestra will do all the work.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Many orchestral musicians disagree with you. You should not think that your experience being conducted by him is the same as every other orchestral musician. In a group of 100 people, there will always be different views between the musicians in the orchestra.

  • Bloom says:

    It was a big Sony commercial operation. Some Sony big shots were conspicuously en place. And in the pics après. Will they release a DVD, a CD or have they already?

    • Greg Bottini says:

      The contracted record manufacturer, which varies from year to year, already has all the inserts (with stock photos of the VPO and the conductor) printed. The recording of the concert is quickly edited and the CD/DVD/Blu-Ray presses (which are on standby) crank out the things immediately, and the product hits the market at lightning speed.
      I’ll just hang on to my Karajan, Kleiber, Maazel, and Harnoncourt New Year’s discs and pass this one by, thank you.

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      Indeed. This concert is every year a massive commercial operation, directed (mostly) for those who consume classical music only once a year.

  • From the effusive comments on FB and Twitter, I figured he did a movement of the Haydn or something.

    Just watched the show on YouTube.

    Nope, 16 bars, sharp, out of tempo, but fun.

    Brave? Sure. Millions in the TV audience. But, don’t figure this as a musical second coming!

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Re: these mean-spirited trolls mentioned above. Please just simply don’t reply to them. Freeze ’em out with no response other than ‘thumbs down’. Let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to not engage in debate with these plonkers.

  • Axl says:

    Rotary E-flat trumpet and Andris – Cool!

  • Joe Mozdiez says:

    Nelsons did a great job. Pretty sure the 2002 concert with Ozawa is the bench mark of DVDs.

  • PHF says:

    I like him as a conductor and I think it is important to give him credit for his playing, because it takes some courage to expose yourself like that, playing in front a high caliber group such as WPO.

    BUT… I still wonder why people keep watching this aristocratic boring concert every year (except from those aristocratic boring dinosaurs in Vienna, of course).

    Happy 2020 to Norman and all colleagues.

  • Escamillo says:

    Willi Boskovsky was famous for both conducting and playing his violin during the New Year’s Day concerts, in the tradition of Johann Strauss. Let’s have more of it!

    • Rob says:

      That’s why Lorin Maazel’s New Years concerts were so good. They always had that touch of class, sadly missing yesterday.

  • Patrick says:

    All quarrels aside, this VPO concert is 1000 times better than the amateur new years event put on by the NY Philharmonic. What a stiff bunch of musical zombies. What? No one pays them to shape a phrase?

    • NYMike says:

      To say nothing of NY’s inferior production, sound and camera work.

    • Tamino says:

      Phrasing is a European thing. Traditionally American orchestras usually do play perfect notes and fly experienced European conductors in to create a sensible connection between those notes. Or in the odd case, they hire a Latino, who has rhythm, so they get at least the vertical part right.

  • Melisande says:

    For all who want to read about the history of the New Year’s concert in Vienna and who was the conductor anticipating the format.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Who remembers Clemens Krauss and the 1953-1955 Decca LPs? “Die Libelle” and “Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb’ und Lust”?

    I enjoyed this year’s concert, especially the rarities like “Seid umschlungen Millionen–Walz” and the Josef Strauss dances. And that male solo dancer in the ballet sequences.

  • Bob says:

    Heard some impressive playing up there.

  • Niles says:

    Just a random thought for today: can you really call someone a genius who plays the notes written by another? I leave you to your sweet cesspool. Good day.