During my 69 years of existence, the world seems to have changed completely. Cars, mobile phones, computers, navigation systems… There is very little that has not changed. But… there are also things that seem to stay the same. Because when I look at life New Year’s Day, every first day of a new year is very similar to the one more than 7 decades ago, with the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert above all.
(Text: Wim Meijer)
Vienna and Garmisch-Partenkirchen
I still clearly remember New Year’s Day in 1963. It was the first year we had television in ‘Huize Meijer’. And that meant that we let the rhythm of the day be determined by what Hilversum had to offer, starting with New Year’s concert with the Vienna Philharmonic from Vienna, followed (by the way ‘only’ since 1953) by the ski jump from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. While I played Post Office at the dining room table with my box of stamps I got for Christmas, my mother and sister sat excitedly in front of the television, watching Willi Boskovsky with a friendly smile on his face, alternating between the baton (conductor’s baton) and the violin, conducting the orchestra and boosting the audience’s enthusiasm.
Willi Boskovsky was like two drops of water to Uncle Wim, my mother’s favorite brother, and for that reason alone was the personification of a ‘Happy New Year’ for her. Without Willy Boskovsky, the New Year’s concert would mean nothing to her. But fortunately Willy persevered for a very long time, no less than 25 years. In 1979, exactly the year I left home, ‘Onkel Willi’ conducted the New Year’s Concert for the last time.
Like Johann Strauss
By the way, my mother was not alone in her appreciation of this likeable-looking Viennese conductor. In particular, the real Strauss enthusiasts were of the opinion that Boskovsky conducted as Johann Strauss Jr. himself did: As “Vorgeiger” with violin and bow in hand. And it is a completely different style than we see from most classical conductors. We see many conductors standing in front of an orchestra with an aura that suggests he is working on something ‘very important and serious’. But it’s just something that doesn’t suit Strauss.
Johan Strauss was the dance musician; of the waltzes, polkas, marches and quadrilles. Strauss intended the audience in the halls to go on the dance floor. That people would enjoy his music and that every performance would become a party in itself. It was therefore important that the conductor was visibly involved in the party. And ‘Uncle Willi’ did it like no other. For an hour and a half he was completely engrossed in Johann Jr.’s works and jumped around the Vienna stage.
500 orchestral works
At least Willi had plenty of music to rock to. Johan Jr. had it. provided for. During his 74 years of life, he wrote more than 500 orchestral works, of which 165 were waltzes, 16 operettas, a ballet and an opera. It is hard to imagine that he still had time to perform. And that performance was not limited to Vienna, for Strauss has seen almost every major venue in Austria, Poland, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France and Italy during his tours.
Father vs son
Despite all the success, the conflict with his father has always been a sore point for Johan Strauss jr. Johan Strauss senior was also a famous and esteemed composer who wrote well-known works, such as the Radetsky March, which traditionally closes the New Year’s ball in Vienna every year.
The conflict between father and son arose when Johan Jr. debuted on October 18, 1844 at the Café Dommayer in Hietzing with his own Tanzkapelle and received more public appreciation than his father. Strauss Sr. was so angry at this that there was never a reconciliation between father and son. Only when Johan Strauss sr. died in 1849, father and son united the Strauss orchestras. John Jr. conducted the newly formed orchestra for the first time during the service in honor of his late father, where he and the orchestra members performed Mozart’s Requiem.
On the Beautiful Blue Danube
From 1844 Strauss Jr. enjoyed ever-growing popularity. His really great works mainly date from after 1865. Well-known works such as Künstlerleben, Rosen aus dem Süden, Wein, Weib und Gesang, Pizzicato Polka, Wiener Blut and of course “An der Schönen Blauen Donau” date from that time. He wrote this waltz on behalf of the “Wiener Männengesangverein”.
An der Schönen Blauen Donau by André Rieu Orchestra
When the waltz premiered on February 13, 1867, it did not seem to catch on with the public. Only when Strauss conducted the waltz at the World Exhibition in Paris in May of the same year did the triumphal procession begin for what was to become the most famous Viennese waltz in history, which was especially admired by his friend and fellow composer Johannes Brahms.
From around 1871, Johan Strauss Jr. composed not only orchestral works, but also 15 operettas, culminating in Die Fledermaus from 1874.
Johann Straus’ last work was, how could it be otherwise, another waltz: ‘Klänge aus der Raymundzeit’ from 1898, after which he died on 3 June 1899 of pneumonia.