Vienna Philharmonic confirms empty New Year with Muti

Vienna Philharmonic confirms empty New Year with Muti


norman lebrecht

December 22, 2020

The orchestra will perform its New Year’s Day concert in the empty Golden Hall of the Musikverein. Riccardo Muti, who turns 80 in 2021, will conduct the event for the sixth time.

He says: ‘When the Philharmonic invited me to my first New Year’s concert in 1993, I asked whether they really thought I could do waltzes. But we worked our way through Franz Schubert, his love of life and his melancholy, quite naturally to Johann Strauss.’


  • sam says:

    “I asked whether they really thought I could do waltzes.”

    You just give the downbeat, the orchestra does the rest.

    The hard part is getting invited to conduct, not actually the technical part of beating 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

    • Novagerio says:

      Basically true. After the Boskovsky years, and perhaps with the exception of Lorin Maazel (then Director of the Staatsoper), the New Year Concert in Vienna has become a sort of market. The invited conductor gets the honours, and Sony cashes in.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Conducting dance music brings to mind Beecham’s comment to the orchestra after he raced through a performance of Coppélia. “That made the buggers hop!”

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Beating 1-2-3 is easy for any well trained conductor. Getting the lilt right is another matter.

    • Gustavo says:

      Isn’t the chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Nabucco a waltz?

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Back in 1993 Muti asked an excellent, refreshingly honest question.

  • Alan K says:

    Actually of all of the ones I have tuned into, only Carlos Kleiber compelled me to sit up, listen, and put everything else aside.

  • Arlette Nees says:

    I started looking with Boskowski. Saw wonderful ballets, views of Vienna. Heard beautiful music. Saw our Belgian pride, Anneleen Lenaerts, and Viennese musicians I know.
    Now I don’t have to envy all those happy few in the Gouden Zaal. Ouffff

  • I hope that one day the other Riccardo will come to Vienna the first of January.

  • a says:

    Pierre Boulez agreed with Sam: “The Vienna Philharmonic are the easiest orchestra in the world to conduct. I give the downbeat, and they start playing the middle of next week.”

    There was life before television. Starting in 1953, Decca issued three annual LPs of VPO New Year’s programs conducted by Clemens Krauss. Though invisible, they are three of the best, including a marvelous “Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb und Lust” and the soporific “Die Liebelle”. Even Furtwaengler recorded a “pops” prgram with the VPO for HMV, not a New Year’s, but with the Emperor Waltz and a thunderous “Pizzicato Polka” as Will and Idea.

    There was beautiful Johann Strauss II before the War from Weingartner (in Paris!) a melting “Wein, Weib und Gesang:’ Bruno Walter, and a gemuetlich Georg Szell.

    Schubert’s waltzes and Laendler are special as heard on the piano from Lili Kraus or Alfred Cortot, as is the Johann Strauss of Alfred Gruenfelt, last imperial court pianist to Franz Josef. Rudolf Buchbinder someimes plays them as encores.

    Then there are the children of Vienna, who learn their numbers in school as “one, two, (pause), three; four, five, (pause) six.”

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Imagining a Pizzicato Polka als Wille und Vorstellung has brought a wide grin to my face; thanks for that!

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Things I could do quite easily:
    > coach the 90’s Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan
    > coach the New England Patriots with Tom Brady
    > conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in waltzes

  • José Bergher says:

    A concert with no audience? Quite sad. Who is going to enthusiastically clap during the Rakocy March?

  • My New Year concert favorite moment is there with the great Nikolaus Marvelous.

  • Nicholas says:

    The PBS broadcast of the New Year’s concert with the VPO was more interesting to watch in America when Walter Cronkite was host. He added a reporter’s gravitas to the music, ballet, features on art, and the Sacher torte.

    • A shame that NBC ABC or CBS don’t broadcast the show

      • Sisko24 says:

        Maybe. If one of the commercial (US) networks broadcast the program, they’d have to stop for ad breaks which would disturb the continuity and cheapen the show. PBS does a good job in letting us Americans see this wonderful tradition. Prosit Neujahr!

  • Julia says:

    Like every year, looking forward to the tv broadcast

  • Greg Bottini says:

    PLEASE get rid of those horrible ballet interruptions.

  • Bass One says:

    For once I’m not bothered that I didn’t win tickets in the ballot.