Memories interrupted my enjoyment of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert broadcast last night on PBS.
Unlike my Show Me protagonist, a CIA covert operative embedded in Vienna, I lived there only three years, but we shared a love of the city’s music. I went to the opera, an orchestra concert, chamber music, an operetta, or some other musical performance once or twice a week. Tickets were cheap, particularly if you were willing to sit in the balcony directly above a chamber orchestra using the instruments in vogue when the music was composed centuries ago.
You could usually get a late ticket to stand at the back of the Musikverein’s high-ceiling rectangular grand hall, and people were there at last night’s event. I could spot where I stood to hear Leonard Bernstein as a guest conductor.
Every venue has excellent acoustics, and every audience knows the music and expresses approval or disappointment through applause. The Viennese love traditional favorites, including such Strauss compositions as Tales of the Vienna Woods. Even so, the 2022 performance included something I don’t remember hearing before, the musicians augmenting their instruments with singing and whistling at one point. The audience approved.
As usual, the favorite final encore, “The Radetsky March,” elicited an enthusiastic audience response. Everyone clapped without missing a beat.
The music lovers wore masks and the walls gleamed with gold (lacquer?) last night, but the orchestra’s performance and the audience’s appreciation have not changed.