Music to bring in the new year

The Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein
The Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein

Our classical music expert Andrew Nowell tunes into what's on his playlist in the beginning of 2019...

There’s only one way for classical music fans to mark the change of calendars and that’s with the New Year’s Day Concert in Vienna.

Held in the stunning surroundings of the Golden Hall of the Austrian capital city’s Musikverein, the concert lights up January 1 with a delightful programme heavily featuring the work of the waltz kings, the Strauss family.

Demand for the annual shindig is so enormous that anyone wanting to be there has to join hundreds of thousands of other music enthusiasts in a ballot.

And such is its popularity that now orchestras worldwide usher in a new year with similar concerts bringing a bit of that Viennese spirit.

So why not mark the beginning of 2019 with a classical playlist?

Strauss II – Blue Danube Waltz: This is the centrepiece of the New Year’s Day Concert and is a beautiful bit of composition. It’s a miniature tone poem really, conjuring up one of Europe’s great rivers from its atmospheric and mysterious opening to its euphoric dance sections.

Strauss Snr – Radetzky March: Another Viennese staple, this has an instantly-recognisable big tune and is still certain to get audiences clapping today with its dramatic, celebratory feel.

Beethoven – Symphony No.9: Something about the sheer scale of this four-movement masterpiece invites playing at momentous and significant times of the year, and the Ode to Joy set in the final movement is as fine a sentiment for the start of 2019 as any.

JS Bach – The Goldberg Variations: Those finding the festive period a drag could be lulled by this masterwork originally written to help a baron’s insomnia. More likely, though, listeners will be drawn in to its stunning soundworld full of complex patterns.

Tippett – New Year: This opaque and philosophical opera was not, to put it mildly, a success when it was first performed but with that title what could be more suitable right now?