Vienna New Year’s Concert: Through the “Black History”

2020 is a frustrating year for globalists, as the once-seemingly interconnected world is divided into islands. The situation for musicians and show organizers is particularly difficult. Due to the global spread of the new crown epidemic, concerts have been cancelled and postponed continuously.

Vienna, regarded as the “Music City”, is naturally the first to bear the brunt, and some world-famous music events are naturally affected. The summer night concert at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna in May is postponed to September every year. Even if the organizer overcomes all difficulties to guarantee the opening of the performance, the epidemic prevention measures have greatly reduced the effect of the performance. Although the Salzburg Music Festival in 2020 was held as scheduled, the number of performances has been drastically reduced, and the number of audiences has been reduced, which has greatly affected the ticket revenue.

2020 New Year’s Concert in Vienna

Viennese people love waltz

Music is important to Austria because it is an important cultural heritage that distinguishes Austria from Germany.

After the ups and downs of history, from the Holy Roman Empire to the Austrian Empire, and then to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it experienced two world wars, two republics and Nazi occupation, and then it was a trembling neutral position during the Cold War. Austria can be said to be a period of turbulence. Especially the European losers in the 20th century. However, we believe that the Viennese music tradition formed in the turmoil will be passed on and become an indispensable part of human civilization.

Broken “Sense of Ritual”
Most Chinese music lovers know the name “Vienna New Year’s Concert”. The annual CCTV live broadcast on New Year’s Day always attracts many audiences who have never been exposed to classical music. This musical tradition that began in 1938 has become a brand performance of the world-famous orchestra-the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like conservative Austria, an important feature of the Vienna Philharmonic is its adherence to conventions. The New Year’s concerts over the decades have many traditions that continue to this day.

However, the outbreak of the epidemic has broken many traditions. Daniel Ferrosauer, chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, stated that the 2021 Vienna New Year’s Concert will be performed “closed door”, and the orchestra must adapt to a concert without applauding the audience.

Traditionally, what should we do with the finale “Radecki March”, which requires the audience to applaud to the beat? You know, the “Radecki March” without applause is not the end of the real New Year’s concert.

The New Year’s concerts over the decades have many traditions that continue to this day.

The Italian conductor Caldo Muti, who is about to conduct the sixth Vienna New Year’s Concert, said in an interview that he had discussed with the orchestra that he might delete the “Radtzky March” from the program list and use the “Blue End of “The Danube”. However, the joyous atmosphere of the New Year conveyed in the applause of the audience in “Radetzky March” is irreplaceable. In this regard, Muti also admitted that this will be the “sentimental end.”

However, the New Year’s concert, which symbolizes the prosperity of singing and dancing, has a history full of sentimentality and embarrassment.

A New Year’s Concert born in troubled times
Since 1838, Vienna has always had a tradition of holding concerts in the New Year, but the repertoire has not been included in the works of the Strauss family. The contemporary Vienna New Year’s Concert began in 1939, but it has a disgraceful “black history”.

About one and a half years after Nazi Germany annexed Austria, conductor Clemens Klaus, with the support of Nazi Germany’s governor-general in Vienna, Bardu von Schlach, rehearsed the first show featuring works by the Strauss family. The concert of the repertoire is called a “special concert”.

The concert was held on December 31, 1939, to raise funds for the Nazi Party’s “Winter Relief Fund”, and at the same time, with the help of the entertainment atmosphere of the Strauss waltz, to boost morale on the front lines.

In the words of the historian Oliver Lescolb, this is “propaganda through entertainment.” However, in the current official historical narratives of the Vienna Philharmonic, the origin of contemporary New Year’s concerts is often described as the resistance of the members of the orchestra with the musical works of the Strauss family, thereby declaring the unique Austria to the Germans who invaded the country. culture.

But such an interpretation is vulnerable to factual evidence. After Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938, one-third of the musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic joined the Nazi Party; on the other hand, although Nazi Germany paid high tribute to the music of Strauss, it did not regard him as much. For a specific Austrian, he was portrayed as a typical German composer and used to construct Germany’s new national identity after the occupation of Austria. Naturally, the Nazi authorities would not regard the concert as a so-called subversive “resistance activity.”

Austria’s self-identity myth
The controversy over the national belonging of Johann Strauss Jr. extended to the controversy over his work “The Emperor’s Waltz”, and even became a cultural dispute between Austria and Germany. After the first performance of this work in 1889, some critics linked the introduction of musical drums that imitated the military steps at the beginning of the work to militarism in Prussian culture. In addition, Johann Strauss Jr. first performed the premiere of “The Emperor’s Waltz” in Berlin, so the piece is considered to be a tribute to the German Emperor Wilhelm II.

However, some commentators pointed out that this work was written on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the succession of Franz Joseph, plus the cover of the 1889 edition printed the crown symbolizing the Habsburg dynasty instead of the German Empire. Naturally thought it was dedicated to the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After World War II, the Austrians firmly stated that they were essentially a different nation from the Germans; when Nazi Germany occupied and annexed Austria, it violated the people’s most fundamental beliefs and values. Although it is not possible to effectively distinguish the two German nationalities from the perspective of language, the national characteristics of the two can be classified from the perspective of music. Germans are usually portrayed as deep and serious. The serious music of Beethoven, Wagner and other musicians can better represent the German nationality; on the contrary, Austrians focus on enjoyment and sensory experience, and Austria believes that it is rich in high-quality music for people. Recreational entertainment. The musical form that best reflects the characteristics of Austrian culture—comfort (Gemütlichkeit in German) is waltz.

It’s no wonder that German conductors have emerged in large numbers, but it was not until 2019 that Vienna was assured of a German conductor on the stage of the Vienna New Year’s Concert.

Vienna never lacks “sentimental”
The term “sentimental” is very suitable for 2020, but Vienna has never lacked sentimentality. People miss the world before the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, just like the faint sentimental nostalgia conveyed by the Austrian writer Stephen Zweig in his memoir “The World of Yesterday”.

In his memoirs, Zweig not only missed the golden age of peace in Vienna before the First World War, but also lamented that Vienna’s music and art atmosphere had lost the old traditional guardians of the royal family and nobles before the outbreak of the war. He wrote: “Although in the 18th century, Maria Theresa asked her daughters to learn music from Gluck, Joseph II, as a music expert, discussed opera with Mozart, and Leopold III could compose by himself, but the emperor later Franz II and Ferdinand were not interested in art at all, and our emperor Franz Joseph in his 80s had not read a book except for the military roster, and even showed openness to music. disgust.”

After World War II, the Austrians firmly stated that they were essentially a different nation from the Germans.

Vienna State Opera

It is understandable that when literati compare the two eras, they tend to fall into the inertial thinking of “holding one and stepping on the other”. But Zweig is obviously biased. Even in the era of Franz Joseph, music and art still have a place in Vienna life and are still flourishing.

Today, the “Vienna State Opera” on the Ring Avenue in Vienna, formerly known as the “Vienna Court Opera”, was personally selected and built by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1861. In 1869, the opera house was based on Mozart’s Don Juan “Grand opening, the emperor also attended the premiere with Queen Elizabeth; even the New Year’s concert and the resident performance venue of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra—the Golden Hall of the Vienna Music Association, were built on the land allocated by the emperor; let alone Strauss The enduring music of the Si family flourished in the era of Franz Joseph I; especially the Waltz of Johann Strauss the Younger, which was loved by the royal family and the public in the second half of the 19th century and became synonymous with Vienna. Even part of the Austrian cultural identity.

Johann Strauss the Younger himself has collaborated with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra many times. In April 1873, he personally conducted the first performance of the waltz of “Vienna Temperament” in the Vienna Golden Hall. In December 1877, Strauss made the premiere of the Vienna Philharmonic in the opera, and incorporated a collection of works by his father and himself. In October 1894, the Vienna Philharmonic participated in a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Strauss’ involvement in the music industry. Strauss wrote in the telegram: “For the exquisite performance of the orchestra and the kindness that brought me unlimited joy, I I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the great musicians of the famous Philharmonic Orchestra.” Their last collaboration was in May 1899, before Strauss died in the opera for the first and only time to conduct his own operetta. “Bat” Overture.

Never forget the empire of the past
Johann Strauss Jr. grew up in a new era when Franz Joseph I was ruling the Austrian Empire. After the young emperor succeeded to the throne, he carried out drastic renovations to Vienna, dismantled the inner city walls and fortifications, built a ring road along the inner city, and built theaters, opera houses, concert halls, museums, churches, etc. along both sides of the street. . Singing, dancing, and enjoying life have become the essence of the so-called “New Vienna”.

The music of Little Strauss is a true portrayal of the beauty and beauty of Vienna as the capital of the empire. The waltz he created, Austrians can recall the imperial capital of Vienna in the 19th century by just looking at the name: “Blue Danube”, “Story of the Vienna Woods”, “Vienna Woman”, “Vienna Spirit” and so on.

The music of Johann Strauss Jr. has a magical power that makes people remember the old Vienna. Of course, today, this kind of “magic power” also reflects the sentimentality of the lost empire. As the biographer Karl Kobart described in the biography of Strauss in 1925: “Even today, no matter where in this vast world, Austrians and Viennese people are happy when they hear Strauss. The beautiful melody of, it will evoke deep homesickness, and the beautiful pictures of this lovely city on the Danube River emerge in my mind-the silhouettes of Stephen Church, Karen Mountain, Schönbrunn Palace, the quiet garden surrounded by flowers and the beauty surrounded by mountains the blue Danube.”

Today, Strauss’s waltz not only conveys the Viennese yearning, obsession, and intoxication of enjoying life, but also symbolizes the ideals and desires of all mankind for a comfortable and beautiful life. At the end of the extremely difficult 2020, people all over the world should need the relaxed atmosphere of the Vienna New Year’s Concert more than ever. As conductor Muti said in the interview: “The most important thing is that the whole world can see this concert.”