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
- Possibly the most-watched classical music event on the planet
- Two public performances of the programme occur before the main event
- Tickets are allocated via an online lottery
- The three concerts take place on Dec 30, Dec 31, and (surprise!) Jan 1
- The 2021 conductor is Riccardo Muti
- See also: New Year in Vienna | Classical concerts
About the concert
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 on the morning of January 1st, but the orchestra performs the same programme on the two days before, giving more people the chance to enjoy this rather wonderful celebration of music.
History & 2021 highlights
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 Vienna in 1939, with the proceeds going to the Nazi’s annual charity drive. How times change.
Initially, the Philharmoniker’s own concert master waved the conductor’s baton at the event 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, Riccardo Muti, and Zubin Mehta.
(The Radetzky March, as played at the 2016 New Year’s Concert)
In 2019, Christian Thielemann conducted the New Year’s Concert for the first time. And another first timer took up the honour in 2020: Andris Nelsons. But 2021 sees the return of an old hand at these things. This will be Riccardo Muti’s sixth time at the event, having previously conducted at the 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, and 2018 concerts.
The New Year’s Concert is by no means Muti’s only association with the Wiener Philharmoniker, having performed with the orchestra over 500 (!) times in his career. The two giants of music will appear together again before the big event, for example in March at the Musikverein and August at the Salzburg Festival.
New Year’s Concert tickets & dates
(The Musikverein concert hall)
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 around €20, though you can pay much more for the better seats, of course. The problem is how to get one.
The good news is you have as good a chance of getting a ticket as just about anyone. The bad news is that this chance is not very high.
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 in February. 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) typically shows the event live on their ORF 2 channel or you can listen in on the radio (the ORF’s Ö1 station).
You don’t even have to be in Austria to enjoy the orchestra’s work. In 2020, for example, the New Year’s Concert was transmitted live to 95 countries across five continents.
The 2021 dates are:
- December 30, 2020 – the Preview Performance (usually 11am)
- December 31, 2020 – the New Year’s Eve Concert (usually 7.30pm)
- January 1, 2021 – the New Year’s Concert (usually 11.15am)
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