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According to the Wiener Philharmoniker website, the New Year Concert in Vienna is the largest classical music event in the world in terms of coverage and number of spectators. In 2010 the Neujahrskonzert was broadcasted by TV to more than 70 countries. Official German name of the event is Das Neujahrskonzert der Wiener Philharmoniker.
On Vienna classical music scene, the Neujahrskonzert is always one of the highlights of the year. Its history reaches as far as the Second World War period. The first time this concert was performed was on 31 December 1939. It was called Ausserordentliches Konzert (Extraordinary Concert). From the following year on, the concert has been performed on the 1 January and gradually gained enormous popularity.
Among the genres played the ones that originated and are popular in Central Europe prevail: waltz, polka, mazurka, and various marches. On the first concert in 1939 the program contained only one name: Johann Strauss (the second). Though more composers are usually played, the Strauss family always dominates the playlist: Johann Strauss I, Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss, and Eduard Strauss.
The other composers selected are usually Austrians (there is a plenty of them to choose from), but occasionally there are also composers from other countries. Frequently played names include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Emil von Reznicek, Joseph Hellmesberger, Karl Michael Ziehrer, Franz von Suppé, Joseph Lanner, or Otto Nicolai – the founder of Wiener Philharmoniker.
In 2009 Vienna Philharmonic played Joseph Haydn’s 4th movement of the Farewell Symphony to commemorate Haydn’s 200 year death anniversary.
Vienna New Year Concert usually takes about two and half hours. There is a longer break in the middle.
It has been a tradition that Vienna New Year Concert always concludes with three encores (not listed in the official program). After the first one, a fast polka, the orchestra members wish the audience a happy new year.
Then the traditional and well-known Blue Danube Waltz (An der schönen blauen Donau) by Johann Strauss II comes. The last piece is the lively Radetzky March, which Johann Strauss I composed in 1848 to celebrate the successful Austrian field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz. During Radetzky March at the New Year Concert the conductor turns to the audience and conducts them to clap their hands along.
Throughout its history the New Year Concert has been held in the Large Hall (Grosser Saal) or the Wiener Musikverein. Several traditions emerged over time, like the beautiful flowers decorating the hall, which are a gift from the city of San Remo in Italy every year.
During the second half of the program, ballet dancers join the orchestra for selected pieces. These dancers come from the Vienna State Opera Ballet and during the year can be seen at some of the most famous places in Vienna and Austria, including Vienna State Opera, Schönbrunn Palace, Schloss Esterházy, or Wiener Musikverein.
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