New Year’s Concert 2002: Director’s Cut

WORKS: Music by the Strauss family
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Seiji Ozawa;dir. Brian Large


I ask you, who else’s cut would it be but the director’s? This daft adoption of feature film terminology apart, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year Concert, as many will have seen and heard through fuggy heads, was this year, as in all years, much as one had expected. Odd how, on the day, it charms.

All those waltzes and polkas by Strausses Johann (don’t ask me which one) and Josef, impeccably played in possibly the world’s most attractive concert hall. All those well-heeled patrons, exquisitely coutured and extravagantly bejewelled.

And in the telecast (and included here as added extras) the accompanying films of the Spanish Riding School’s fantastically well-disciplined dressage and the Vienna State Opera Ballet’s Romantic take on whatever piece to which they have been detailed to strut their stuff- in this case The Blue Danube.

Just about the only thing that changes from year to year, besides the playing of at least one piece that’s not well known (this time Joseph Hellmesberger junior’s Danse diabolique], is the conductor. This year, for the first time, the anointed one was Seiji Ozawa. He conducts everything from memory, and proves himself very good at this kind of thing, content to enjoy the souffle for what it is.


Yet watching this DVD — undoubtedly a best-seller in the making — on a wet and windy March afternoon made me wonder. Who, save the most avid souvenir hunter, would really want to buy – and play, repeatedly – a disc of an annual ritual which can only be what it is supposed to be on the prescribed day at the prescribed time? Why not just wait for next year? Baffling to me, bur all undeniably beautifully done. Stephen Pettitt