Thursday, January 01, 2004

Vienna Dreams

There's a wonderful moment in the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, when Bond is trying to secure the trust of Kara, a lovely young cellist from Bratislava whose boyfriend has already turned out to be a KGB agent. Bond tells her, "We might catch up with him in Vienna", and Kara's eyes light up at the mere mention of that city. This is because Vienna is almost holy ground to classical musicians.

My unending New Year's Tradition is to watch the annual PBS telecast of New Year's From Vienna, a concert involving the Vienna Philharmonic and a ballet company in which works of the Strauss family are performed, and ending with the traditional encores of On the Beautiful Blue Danube and The Radetsky March. And in a further, charming tradition, at the first sound of the shimmering tremolo that opens The Blue Danube, the audience erupts in applause, at which time the conductor addresses them with a brief greeting for the New Year before beginning the work again.

If I have any one musical dream, it would probably be to attend this concert in person. How I'd love to sit in that glorious hall, the Musikverein, and hear the Vienna Philharmonic. Just look at this wondrous place:

I once got involved in a Usenet "debate" over the merits of Vienna's New Year's concert with some stuffy classical music "literati" who sternly lectured me on how the Vienna Philharmonic is coasting on its former glory, and how the Strauss family repertoir is just tired stuff, and how this event is not an important "event" in the musical world. This person could not even begin to understand the idea that this concert is a personal tradition for me (and, given its worldwide audience, for many others) in much the same vein as listening to the Boston Pops on TV playing Sousa marches on the Fourth of July.

Ninety minutes a year, spent listening to "tired repertoire" played by an "irrelevant orchestra"....well, somebody's got to do it.

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