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  • The Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons premiered at the podium for the annual concert, but the 41-year-old knows the Vienna Philharmonic well, having collaborated together for a decade.

    The Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons premiered at the podium for the annual concert, but the 41-year-old knows the Vienna Philharmonic well, having collaborated together for a decade. | Photo: EFE

Published 2 January 2020
Opinion

Waltzes and polkas from the Strauss family dominated the program, among them Josef Strauss’ “Greetings of Love Waltz,” a special dedication to the Salzburg Festival, which celebrates its centenary this year.

Once again, the Vienna Philharmonic has greeted New Year with its traditional concert and for its 80th-year event organizers left some space for Beethoven among the members of the Strauss family, and showcased a “de-Nazified” version of the “Radetzky March.”

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The main celebration was the 250th anniversary of the birth of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed iconic pieces in Vienna.

The conductor and the orchestra bid the crowd a “Happy New Year” before diving straight into Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube,” perhaps the most famous waltz in the world. To finish off the concert, a rousing rendition of Johann Strauss’s “Radetzky March.”

The work, composed in 1848, was the only piece by the patriarch of the Strauss family to be played and the one heard Wednesday rang with political and historical meaning.

The march that has featured in the New Year’s Concert since 1946 is not the original but rather a score with arrangements introduced in 1914 by Leopold Weninger, a composer who later joined the Nazi party and made numerous works extolling his anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideology.

The Vienna Philharmonic did not discover the historical connection with Nazism until 2013 and now wants to present a clean, new version.

It resulted in something less martial and more festive, thanks to Nelsons himself, who made the tweaks.

According to the Vienna Philharmonic’s president, Daniel Froschauer, the orchestra wanted to honor a musical figure who it feels it owes its existence to.

Another anniversary, the 150th of the Musikverein building, whose Golden Hall hosts the New Year’s Concert, was marked with the recital of Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Enjoy Life” and Eduard Strauss’ “Ice Flower,” which were originally composed for the music hall’s inaugural night on Jan. 15, 1870.

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