Vienna has cancelled Christmas. What about New Year’s Day?

Vienna has cancelled Christmas. What about New Year’s Day?


norman lebrecht

October 20, 2020

The annunal concert “Christmas in Vienna” show was cancelled today due to corona.

Instead there will be a two-hour TV special from the Vienna Konzerthaus, airing on ORF II on December 21 and on ARTE on December 24.

The big question is whether the Vienna Philharmonic will be able to stage their New Year’s Day spectacular.


All bets are off.


  • I think it’s possible to give us a New Year Concert with 25% or 30% of the seats occupied. There’s a big question also about the New Year concert of la Fenice I like so much especially when there’s Mastro Chung and the traditional Christams day concert at the Concertgebouw.

  • sam says:

    The Blue Danube would stop flowing if there were no New Year’s Day concert.

    If Strauss Jr were alive, he would most certainly write a Covid Waltz.

    • William Safford says:

      Would the waltz end morendo?

    • J Morris Jones says:

      They could always include ‘Fledermaus’, in which people go around in masks, and has to do with the Bat, the creature which some say provided the origin of this obstinate virus in the first place. And perhaps Muti could throw in a sneaky excerpt or two from ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’.

  • yujafan says:

    Early 2021 won’t be much different from 2020, the way things are going in many countries. Sorry to say it, but being realistic, there’s more pain ahead. So all the more reason for some music to lift the spirits – I hope it goes ahead, now more than ever.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Strauss can be played with a smaller orchestra. In fact, the orchestra that Strauss himself conducted was much smaller than today’s VPO. if worse comes to worse…

    • Garech de Brun says:

      Strauss has nothing to do with Christmas.
      Handel’s Messiah.

      • MacroV says:

        Messiah has nothing to do with Christmas; Handel wrote it for Easter.

        • Doc Martin says:

          Wrong you are misinformed, he composed it for Lent, when the Theatres in London were closed.

          He was invited to Dublin by the Duke of Devonshire to put on benefit concerts and chose Dublin for Messiah’s first performance.

          The tradition in UK and Ireland is to perform it at Christmas and Lent.

          • Rose Lee says:

            Yes, is performed across the pond this way also.
            Whatever traditions may be, surely we can agree music is greatly needed in this time of Covid.

        • Garech de Brun says:

          Wrong, he composed it for Lent, when the theatres were closed in London.

          The tradition in UK/Ireland has always to perform it at Christmas.

          This is why it is appropriate at Christmas.

          1. The prophesy of salvation, the coming the the Saviour, his birth, the Angels and Shepherds, his redemptive miracles on earth.

          2. The redemptive sacrifice, his sacrificial death, his passage to hell and resurrection, his ascension.

          3. The promise of bodily resurrection and redemption from Adam’s fall.

          Strauss has no relevance at all to Christmas. it is mere flippery.

        • Rose Lee says:

          Touché & olé.

      • purefool says:

        Yes, but the tradition of Strauss and co on New Year’s Day goes back at lest 75 years.

    • Steven J de Mena says:

      What does the size of the VPO have to do with anything?

  • Jim says:

    Will probably be unfortunate for you, Norman. I can remember what a lovely field day you had with last years New Years concert: you pushed out numerous posts about it.

  • Garech de Brun says:

    That has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.

    A Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, choristers, Dean and Chapter, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin miles better than that and I sit in the Knight’s of St. Patrick stalls as my illustrious ancestors did.

    • Doc Martin says:

      Yes Garech better to be among your illustrious ancestors than Cov-19 plagued Vienna.

    • Maria says:

      Christmas is a national holiday in Britain and I red land, tied up with the winter solstice and taken on by the Christians. Nothing much to do with the birth of Jesus, and I speak as a practising Christian, and even Richard Dawkins goes to sing Christmas Carols. More to do with a stuffed turkey, too much booze, no public transport, and people stuck in doors with people they’d rather not be with of all faiths or none.

      • Doc Martin says:

        Your sentence does not make grammatical sense, (I red land?).

        Garech de Brun and I are both Irishmen and live in Ireland not UK. Garech is related to the 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne.

        At Christmas we have roast wild boar, Venison not Turkey which is from America.

        I also attend the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin on Christmas Eve.

        I was once a chorister there, now I am retired I just play my Irish harp.

      • Garech de Brun says:

        Your sound like a dour Presbyterian or Evangelical!

        We have Handel’s Messiah every year in Dublin.

  • Brian says:

    I wonder if the Vienna Phil would agree to a socially-distanced staging with reduced forces, plexiglass shields and the like? Worthy precautions but they are so tradition-bound (and TV-focused) it’s hard to see somehow.

    • Matthias says:

      Since returning to the stage in June, the VPO has relied on regular testing rather than reducing forces and socially distancing (everywhere: Salzburg, State Opera, Musikverein – with or without TV cameras present). I don’t see them changing that for New Year‘s.

      • Brian says:

        Good to know. That said, I don’t know if Austria’s testing regimens are better than America’s but I personally wouldn’t want to rely on that exclusively. A covid test is only a snapshot of a point in time.

        • Matthias says:

          Yes, that‘s why you have to take many snapshots over time. There is definitely some risk involved in this approach, let’s hope it doesn’t backfire.

    • Steven J de Mena says:

      The VPO is already giving full-orchestra concerts.

  • Gustavo says:

    They just need some company like ROLEX to sponsor mass PCR testing of the full VPO, conductor plus selected VIP audience 48 h before January 1st – and the Blue Danube can flow after a collective unmasked “Prosit Neujahr!”.

  • Matthias says:

    The New Year‘s concert will absolutely happen in one form or another – the VPO have said so and they just make way too much money from it. The Musikverein currently operates at around 50% seating capacity (plus standing room is banned) and you have to wear a mask at all times. Since Covid cases are rising in Austria, the government has very recently tightened restrictions to allow only a maximum of 1000 people at indoor events. In Vienna this restriction has only affected the State Opera and the Konzerthaus, which were operating slightly above that threshold (the Musikverein was below the threshold already).
    It‘s possible that there will be further restrictions until New Year‘s, but the concert will go ahead – with or without audience. The VPO have even floated the idea of testing the entire audience (prices are already horrendous, so why not include a test) – not sure whether that can be done in a timely enough fashion to make sense.

  • Brian Bell says:

    A quick look at the Philharmoniker website, and it seems that the tour to Japan the first week of November is still on. And the concerts led by Herbert Blomstedt this month went off without a hitch.

  • Greg says:

    Why not? The VPO is giving concerts right now in the Musikverein. In fact, I had tickets for a recent Gergiev concert on October 16, but was unable to attend. Vienna survived the Black Death. They cannot capitulate now.

    • Rachelle Goldberg says:

      If you look on their Facebook page you will see that they have been playing together since August. They have been giving many concerts as you will be able to see from the numerous photos on the page and accounts of the conductors and soloists that have taken part. I am certain they will be holding the Concert but with a socially distanced audience. They get fees from the Television rights as it beamed around the world

    • Doc Martin says:

      Silly comment. The Black death lasted centuries in Europe and it was only in the 20th century that antibiotics were found to treat it. Sporadic cases occur in Russia PRC. It became an epidemic when it converted to pneumonic plague, person to person without a vector.

      Sars-cov-2 is unlikely to disappear by Christmas and and evidence of an effective vaccine is not certain.

    • The VPO gave the Schönbrunn concert last month there was the Salzbourg Festival also we know that for the Austrians classical music is a priority like football in Spain and in UK. the Europeans TV want something for fisrt day of 2021 and Rolex wants to be there on screen! And like the two last years I want to see Rudy Buchbinder enjoy the Show in the Musikverein!

  • MacroV says:

    They could play it with a reduced audience and smaller, more-spaced orchestra. The TV audience is the thing, right?

  • Fernandel says:

    No big question. They will.

  • Garech de Brun says:

    Forget Vienna, here is Handel’s Messiah from Westminster Abbey.

  • Anon says:

    I think you meant to write as a headline “Vienna’s Philharmonic has no ideas and little hope”, as that seems to be today’s SD response to concert hall closure.

  • Novagerio says:

    Why should people have put up with a hyped-up non-Last Night of the non-Proms 2020, and not with the far more important and qualitatively superior Neujahrskonzert from Vienna?

  • Doc Martin says:

    International travel during a pandemic is very unwise, UK gov SAGE advisors suggest a second wave peak around Christmas New Year, 10,000 deaths estimated.