Take an iconic orchestra, a famous venue, and a world-class conductor, then put them all together and what do you get? Probably not tickets (actually, you *can* get tickets with a bit of luck). No, it’s Waltz time with a capital W at the legendary New Year’s Concert in Vienna.
- Hugely popular annual concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein
- Two public performances of the programme occur on days before the main event
- Dec 30, Dec 31, and (surprise) Jan 1
- Tickets allocated through an online lottery early in the year
- Christian Thielemann conducts in 2024
- See also:
A concert with history
(Franz Welser-Möst conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker at the 2023 concert; press photo © Wiener Philharmoniker / Dieter Nagl)
The turn of the year sees the Musikverein concert hall decked out in huge floral arrangements and hosting a three-day residency by the “house band”, which just happens to be the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra).
The “main event” is the New Year’s Concert (German: Neujahrskonzert) on the morning of January 1st, but the orchestra performs the same programme on the two days before. This gives more people the chance to enjoy a rather wonderful celebration of Viennese classics.
This feast of music, with its concurrent message of peace and harmony, has rather ignominious roots; the first New Year’s Concert took place in 1939, with the proceeds going to the Nazi’s annual charity drive. How times change.
(The Musikverein on the left of the picture hosts the event)
Stars and highlights
The Philharmoniker’s own concert master waved the baton at the earlier events but, since 1980, the honour of conducting the orchestra changes each year.
Some of the most famous names in classical music have welcomed in the New Year in Vienna, including Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, and Zubin Mehta.
The honour of conducting the 2024 New Year’s Concert goes to Christian Thielemann, who also took charge of the 2019 event.
Thielemann knows the orchestra well; his association with the Philharmoniker began (I believe) back in late 2000, when he first conducted them in Vienna at, coincidentally, the Musikverein.
(Franz Welser-Möst in action; press photo © Wiener Philharmoniker / Dieter Nagl)
Other recent conductors of the New Year’s Concert include:
- 2020: Andris Nelsons (for the first time)
- 2021: Riccardo Muti’s (his sixth time at the event)
- 2022: Daniel Barenboim (his third time)
- 2023: Franz Welser-Möst (also his third time)
The concert typically includes polkas, waltzes, and similar from the Strauss family and their contemporaries. A traditional encore is The Blue Danube waltz from Joseph Strauss II and the Radetzky March from Joseph Strauss I.
I await details of the 2024 programme. Unusually, almost all the pieces in the formal part of the 2023 concert were part of the New Year’s event for the first time.
Another premiere came in 2023 through the participation of the Wiener Chormädchen (the female section of the Vienna Boys’ Choir), who joined their male colleagues to sing a Strauss polka.
New Year’s Concert tickets & dates
The 2023/2024 dates are:
- December 30, 2023 – the Preview Performance (11am)
- December 31, 2023 – the New Year’s Eve Concert (7.30pm)
- January 1, 2024 – the New Year’s Concert (11.15am)
Vienna has a tradition of egalitarian access to culture. So, for example, you can see opera at the State Opera House for as little as the price of a cup of coffee.
Tickets for the New Year concert performances start at €20 (for the preview concert on December 30th), though you can pay much more, of course. The best seats at the main event on January 1st cost €1200.
The good news is you have as great a chance of getting a ticket as just about anyone. The bad news is that this chance is low.
A simple lottery decides who can buy tickets, which you enter online at the Wiener Philharmoniker website. To do so, you must register your application at the site much earlier in the year. Full details here.
If you miss out on tickets (I once heard that over 400,000 people apply), you can always switch on the television.
Austria’s state broadcaster (ORF) shows the New Year’s Day event live (normally on the ORF 2 channel) or you can listen in on the radio (normally the Ö1 station).
ORF mixes in a couple of recorded dance scenes with the broadcast.
In 2023, these saw members of the Vienna state ballet performing to:
- the Perlen der Liebe waltz by Josef Strauss in Laxenburg palace and park
- the Auf und davon polka by Eduard Strauss at the garden pavilion of the Baroque Melk abbey
- the Blue Danube waltz by Johan Strauss II from inside the Melk abbey
You don’t even have to be in Austria to enjoy the orchestra’s work on TV and radio. The New Year’s Concert is broadcast live to over 90 countries. And if you don’t catch it on TV, the Philharmoniker bring out a CD, DVD, etc. of the event remarkably quickly.
Incidentally, the open-air Rathausplatz Film Festival in summer has often included a recording of the most-recent concert as a programme point. Or you might find a recording playing at the Haus der Musik.
How to get to the Musikverein
For directions, should you be lucky enough to get tickets, see the main Musikverein article.
Address: Musikvereinsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna