Petroc with Franz Welser-Most, before the shirt came off ...
Vienna has got the weather just right this year: dry and bright, crisp enough to justify hat and gloves, yet without the bitter chill of my last few visits. Sun streams through the window of Franz Welser-Möst’s dressing room at the Musikverein, reflecting on the gilding around a pair of plaster cherubs, the only decoration in what is otherwise a rather characterless space.
Given that we are chatting midway through the first performance of the New Year Concert, Welser-Möst is surprisingly relaxed. After greetings have been exchanged, Viennese pleasantries are abandoned as he pulls off his dress shirt. He’s just ended the first half with Franz von Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture. ‘This is a piece I was very keen to include,’ he tells me. ‘It was the first music I ever conducted, and it reminds me of watching this concert as a child.’ Growing up in Linz, he says he doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t watch the concert. ‘In black and white of course, with Willi Boskovsky conducting.' Boskovsky, sometime leader of the Vienna Philharmonic, directed the concert for quarter of a century before his retirement in 1979; nowadays the conductor changes every year; this is Welser-Möst’s second appearance on the rostrum.
The New Year's Day concert is performed three times, in the evening of New Year's Eve, the broadcast on New Year's Day, and on December 30th, when the Austrian army fills the balcony. Their drab olive-green uniforms contrast with the riot of golden caryatids, plaster busts and the shimmering crystal chandeliers, young soldiers leaning out over the edge of the slips to photograph each other with their smart-phones.