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Petroc Trelawny Petroc Trelawny | 13:14 UK Time, Friday, 31 December 2010

Photo of Austrian servicemen gathering for the Neujahrskonzert

Photo of Austrian servicemen gathering for the Neujahrskonzert

Radio 3's Petroc Trelawny is in Vienna to present the New Year's Day concert and 'Cafe Mozart' - one of the first programmes in Radio 3's Genius of Mozart festival. Here, Petroc describes the scene in Vienna while the Vienna Philharmonic's first and only British player introduces him to a Mozart-era trombone ...


No Blue Danube to greet me on arrival in Vienna. Austrian Airlines serenades its passengers with strains of Strauss’s great waltz as their planes trundle along taxiways; we’d got cheaper tickets for this trip, on an airline lacking such musical good taste.   

But I didn’t have to wait too long before getting a burst of this city's de facto anthem.  And this time it wasn’t through a crackly speaker, but live in the Musikverein, in the hands of the Vienna Philharmonic and Franz Welser-Möst. The sparkling, thrilling performance came as part of the New Year's Day concert. But hang on, I hear you ask, it’s only December 31st. In fact, the VPO’s tireless players give their salute to the Strauss family three times each year: the famous New Year's morning concert, which I’ll be introducing for Radio 3 and BBC TV, is only the culmination; there's a New Year's Eve performance, when the Sekt flows even more liberally; and another one on the morning of December 30th. Tickets for this first run are not exactly cheap, but they’re a little easier to come by. So, while there were American and Japanese tourists around me yesterday, there were also plenty of Austrian music lovers, thrilled to have secured a seat at their city's annual musical spectacular.

The gallery of the Musikverein was completely Austrian for yesterday’s show - all the tickets are given to members of the Austrian Armed forces.  Teenage cadets in their olive green uniforms were lined up on parade immediately beforehand, clutching tickets in their hands;  older NCOs popped out during the interval for a quick cigarette, while senior officers, their  polished shoes gleaming, gaily clapped along to the Radetzky March, obeying the orders of the musical marshal on the conductor's podium. 

This is rather a personal concert for conductor Franz Welser-Möst.  I hope I have this exactly right, but his great, great, great grandfather owned a restaurant and casino in Vienna’s 13th district, where Johann Strauss Junior made his debut. The concert was in the autumn of 1844,  and had to happen away from the centre of town so the young man didn’t challenge his father’s musical supremacy. Two works that featured in that first appearance are heard in part one of this year’s concert.

There are already posters advertising the CD of this year's New Year’s Day concert; the liner notes are already printed, and the production teams will work through the night on January 1st to get it edited and ready for release.  The recording of the event has become a best seller and a huge revenue earner for the VPO.  This year it will be released internationally on January 7th,  less than a week after Franz Welser Möst beats his last bar.  Quite an achievement. 

Photo of Ian Bousfield with the Mozart-era trombone

Ian Bousfield with the Mozart-era trombone

I’m here to celebrate two great musical names associated with Vienna.  The Strauss dynasty occupy me until tomorrow lunchtime, and then, like the rest of Radio 3,  Mozart takes over.   He lived in eleven different residences between his arrival here in 1781 and his death a decade later. The Vienna Philharmonic has been badly hit by flu this year, but those not forced to their beds are playing on, including Ian Bousfield, the orchestra’s York-born principal trombonist.  The first, and still the only Englishman in the orchestra, he arranged for us to visit the VPO archives yesterday to see a trombone that Mozart would have often heard played.  Ian was as excited as we were when he got to don white gloves and give it a try out, playing part of the tune of the Tuba Mirum from the Requiem, perhaps even written for this very instrument. The metal is painfully thin in places, the instrument rather less versatile than its modern cousins, but the sound was still thrilling - as you’ll be able to hear in Café Mozart, live on Radio 3 tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

Do join me you me if you can tomorrow.  The New Year's Day concert is live on Radio Three at 1015am, with TV coverage of the second half starting on BBC2 at 1115am.

Find programme details for the New Year's Day concert on BBC TWO TV
Find programme details for the New Year's Day concert on BBC Radio 3
Find details of the Genius of Mozart season on Radio 3
Read Graeme Kay's blog with highlights of The Genius of Mozart
Visit the website of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra




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