Happy New Year from Vienna!


Daniel Barenboim turned towards his audience and said: “The Vienna Philharmonic and I wish you…” Then he paused and all musicians joined in performing “Prosit Neujahr!”…”Happy New Year!”

Daniel Barenboim with the Vienna Philharmonic.

This year the Vienna New Year’s concert — directed by Barenboim for the second time since 2009 — was an appeal for world peace and reconciliation. Europe still remembers the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and recognizes 2014 as its centenary. Two books I recommend:

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Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

Barenboim opened the concert with a dedication (“Helena Quadrille, by Eduard Strauss) to his wife Elena Bashkirova, a pianist and artistic director of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival. He then conducted the “Friedenspalmen” (Palms of Peace) waltz by Johann Strauss. And instead of conducting the traditional encore of the “Radetzky March,” he gave each musician a handshake wishing peace.

Brit fashion designer Vivienne Westwood

Punk Ballet?
The British “Queen of Punk,” Dame Vivienne Westwood, tailored the costumes for the Vienna State Ballet for its New Year’s TV performance. Some critics turned up their nose; they were not amused. But I enjoyed the noble costumes for the waltz and the kilts for the pizzicato.

The production aired over 90 TV stations — the first time in the history of these concerts. (The first was conducted by the famous Clemens Krauss on Dec. 31, 1939.) The ballet company performs to a worldwide audience each New Year’s Day by means of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day Concerts. The TV broadcast also includes several pre-recorded dance sequences.

Lifting the Veil
Markus Hinterh√§user — the artistic director of the Salzburg Festival — lifted the veil of his program for his first year at Vienna. For the first time, Mozart’s Cos√¨ fan tutti will be shown, directed by Oscar-winner Michael Haneke. Also ,for the first time, the acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge shows his animated film for each of Franz Schubert’s 24 “Winterreise” songs, featuring baritone Matthias Goerne and Hinterh√§user on piano. The Vienna fest runs in May and June.

The New York Times called the band Kraftwerk (power station) “the Beatles of electronic dance-music.” It’s been announced that they will arrive in May 2014 for four days at the Burgtheater to present their repertoire.

On Dec. 18 the Konzerthaus presented — after the premiere in Rome — “Le ceneri di gramsi” (ashes of Gramsci), Pier Pasolini’s poem set to music by Manfred Trojahn, the German composer.

Here’s an excerpt, translated by Michelle Cliff:

A red rag, like those the partisans furled around their throats
and, nearby the urn, in the waxen soil differently red, two geraniums.
Here you lie, exiled, with cruel Protestant neatness,
listed among the foreign dead: Gramsci’s ashes.