Great Performances


From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2022

Ring in the new year in Austria at the Musikverein with the Vienna Philharmonic and host Hugh Bonneville in this annual concert of waltzes by Strauss and more under the baton of guest conductor Daniel Barenboim.

AIRED: January 01, 2022 | 1:25:25


-"Great Performances" wishes you a happy New Year.

And in Vienna, our friends welcome you

to another New Year's celebration.

On this day each year, the Golden Hall is filled

with the music of Austria's "Waltz King," Johann Strauss.

Daniel Barenboim leads the Vienna Philharmonic

in the Musikverein,

and we'll visit imperial palaces and parks

with the Vienna State Ballet

and marvel at the skills of the horses and riders

of the Spanish Riding School.

So join me, your host, Hugh Bonneville,

for "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2022."


-Welcome once again to the Golden Hall, the Musikverein.

It's the center of Vienna's musical life

and home to the Vienna Philharmonic.

By tradition, on New Year's Day, it is transformed

into a winter garden by Vienna's master florists.

Happy New Year. I'm Hugh Bonneville.

So glad to be back with you again

for this festive holiday concert.

Out of an abundance of caution in these COVID times,

I'll be hosting from home, as, together,

we'll virtually visit the sights and sounds of Vienna.

So let's return to the Musikverein,

where the Vienna Philharmonic is awaiting the entrance

of the famed conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim.

Today marks his third appearance at the New Year's Day concert,

as, this year, he celebrates his 80th birthday.

The maestro is General Music Director

of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin.

Now, to begin the festivities,

Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic

have chosen the overture to The Waltz King's

most famous operetta, "Die Fledermaus."


[ Cheers and applause ]

For nearly 150 years, "Die Fledermaus"

has been charming audiences with its very Viennese story of

extramarital flirtation, masked disguise, and spousal revenge,

all kept afloat with a whirl of light-hearted music and dance

and an effervescent pop of champagne.

Central to the plot is a masked ball.

In those days in Vienna, only the ladies were masked.

Popular was the Venetian yellow domino half-mask,

which gave them the freedom to flirt

and request the gentleman to dance.

Providing costumes for the balls for five generations,

since 1862, has been Lambert Hofer.

That's the name of the founder,

a costumer at Vienna's Burgtheater,

who fought with a fussy actor over his costume,

quit, and founded his own shop.

Here's one uniform worn by the emperor himself.

And they still provide costumes

for evening wear, film, theater, and TV.

Domino masks were only part of

the more extensive domino cloak and hood worn by both sexes

over their elaborate costumes to add a sense

of adventure, intrigue, and mystery to the masquerade.

I guess you could say, what happens at the ball

stays at the ball.

While The Waltz King might retort,

"Blame it on the champagne."


[ Pop, cheers and applause ]

The ball tradition goes back to 1814,

when the crown heads of Europe gathered in Vienna

to divide up the continent after the Napoleonic Wars.

At night, they partied.

By the 1820s, the masked balls of the Hofburg,

the imperial winter palace, were the most exclusive events

on the social calendar during carnival season.

Some of the nobility took to giving private balls

in their own palaces, while common folk

imitated the aristocracy in the taverns.

The best orchestras were engaged and conducted

by such luminaries as Johann Strauss, father,

and later by his three sons, Johann, Josef, and Eduard.

Hired horse-drawn carriages, or fiakers,

would be busy throughout the evening,

transporting night owls to the dance halls in the suburbs.

Here, balls for washer maids and cabbies took place.

at which a count might dance with Fiaker Lily,

belle of the cabbies' ball,

rich and poor swaying together to the strains of the waltz.

Dancing usually began at 9:00 in the evening

and lasted till dawn,

when it was off to breakfast at the Wuerstelstand.

The favorite song of the revelers went,

"Friends, what do you think?

Do you want to go home or shall we stay?

Are you up for that? Until dawn and the sun shines?

And then we'll go home to sleep."


-[ Singing in German ]

[ Whistling ]


[ Ringing ]

-[ Singing in German ]

[ Whistling ]


[ Cheers and applause ]

-The Empress Maria Theresa would be the only woman to govern

as sovereign during the whole of the Habsburg dynasty.

As a symbol of her power, she decided early in her reign

to transform the former hunting lodge of Schoenbrunn

into the magnificent summer palace we see today.

Even the furnishings inside

were intended to glorify the monarchy.

This painting depicts a lady's carousel

the 26-year-old Maria Theresa held on January the 2nd, 1743

in the winter riding school of the Hofburg.

The empress led the parade.

Cavaliers drove the carriages,

leaving the ladies of the court to lunge gleefully

with their swords at papier-mâché models of

Turks' heads impaled on poles.

This macabre practice of displaying the captured head

of their dreaded enemy, the Ottoman Turk,

had played an important role in war for centuries.

The Habsburgs had only recently been able to repel them

for good when the Persians opened a second front

on the Ottoman Empire from the east,

to general rejoicing in Vienna.

The Waltz King quotes the theme of the Persian national anthem

in the trio of this march that he dedicated to the Shah.


[ Cheers and applause ]

Just across the square from the Musikverein

stands the Konzerthaus, "The Artists' House,"

commissioned by the emperor as a gift

to the Vienna Artist Society for the exhibition of

their paintings, sculptures, and applied art.

Downstairs houses Austria's new Albertina Modern.

With its collection of over 60,000 works by 5,000 artists,

it numbers among the world's largest museums of post-1945

modern and contemporary art.

In this exhibition, the wild artists of the 1980s

are considered the masters of today.

Artists like Jeff Koons, Robert Longo,

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Franz Gertsch, and Keith Haring,

together with Austrian artists such as

Franz West and Isolde Joham,

stretched and redefined contemporary expressions of art.

At the Vienna State Ballet, the company and its academy

has new artistic leadership in

Director and Chief Choreographer Martin Schlaepfer.

A former dancer himself, he's committed to

the grand classical repertoire and the ballets of

the dance masters of the 20th century,

while developing new work from today's artists.

Now let's watch what happens when

a new dance generation takes a peek at the traditions of old

on the steps of Austria's imperial summer palace.


[ Music ends, cheers and applause ]

Oskar Kokoschka was one of the pioneers of Viennese modernism.

A member of the scandalous Vienna Workshops,

he participated in the artists' show of 1908

at the invitation of Gustav Klimt,

where his work earned him the nickname

"The Wildest of Them All."

A playwright as well, his early works

caused a veritable scandal, forcing him to flee Vienna.

By 1910, he was a star of the international art world.

This self-portrait from 1922 shows Kokoschka

at his expressionist best, in his Dresden studio

with a view of the river Elbe behind it.

This painting represents the first

in a whole series of later cityscapes.

Denounced and exhibited as a degenerate artist

by the Nazis in 1934, Kokoschka left Austria for Prague.

His oil "Prague -- View from the Monastery

of the Knights of the Cross" was painted just after

his arrival there in the late summer of 1934.

He was forced to flee to London in 1938.

Today, the painting is on long-term loan

to the prestigious Leopold Museum,

which houses the finest collection of paintings by

Oscar Kokoschka in the world.

The artist traveled widely in Europe and Asia,

made possible since the mid-19th century

by the railroad.

Ease of travel allowed the Strauss Orchestra

to book extended tours throughout the continent,

where each city stop might expect

a tune written just for them.


[ Cheers and applause ]

A favorite bedtime story in Germany and Austria

involves a group of elves, the Hinzelmann,

and the city of Cologne.

These industrious little creatures would arrive

unseen in the middle of the night

to help the townsfolk with all their work.

It didn't take long for the people of Cologne

to realize that they no longer had to finish their work,

because it would always be finished for them.

So they got lazy, the citizens hardly doing a thing.

This went on until the tailor's wife

decided to see exactly who was doing all the work.

That night, she scattered peas everywhere and awoke to

the screams of some awfully angry elves

slipping and falling on the workshop floor.

The elves ran away, never to return,

and the people of Cologne had to do

all of their own work from then on.

The famous tale begins, "Once upon a time in Cologne,

how comfortable it was with the Hinzelmann.

They came by night with everyone asleep.

They swarmed and clattered and rattled and plucked

and picked and jumped and cleaned and scoured.

And when the lazy folk awoke,

they found their work already done."


[ Cheers and applause ]

This is the Stallburg, a part of the Hofburg palace

and the imperial stables of the Spanish Riding School.

It's just across the street from the indoor riding rink,

where the horses are trained and exercised.

Only in Vienna can you expect traffic to come to a halt

when it's time for these star performers

to take their places each day in the Winter Riding School.

This magnificent baroque riding hall was built

for the white stallions and their riders

in 1735 by Emperor Charles VI.

Originally intended as an institute for royal youth

to receive their riding instruction,

it continues today as one of the most prestigious

classical riding academies in the world.

In the 19th century, Empress Elisabeth

trained here regularly.

She rode sidesaddle, as decorum demanded,

and was a highly skilled rider,

considered one of the best equestrians of her age,

though something of a daredevil.

A handsome woman, tall and slim,

she was sewn into her riding habit every morning

by her seamstress to emphasize her figure.

Today's majestic Lippizaners

match her style and spirit,

standing tall with their lively intelligence and grace.


[ Music ends, cheers and applause ]

February 1874, the same year

"Die Fledermaus" premiered,

carnival season was in full swing,

and the 34-year-old Empress Elisabeth was bored.

After a light supper in her private chambers,

she bid the emperor good night

and withdrew to her exercise-and-dressing room.

She had her servants undress her, as usual,

and went to bed, pretending to sleep.

When the servants had left her,

her trusted lady-in-waiting slipped into her room

with a magnificent fancy dress costume,

a red-blond wig, a yellow domino mask to cover her face,

and a cloak.

Down a backstair and out of the palace they went.

Spotting a young man on the dance floor,

she instructed her confidant to fetch him.

This might have been the closest

the beautiful, unattainable empress ever came to flirting.

Fritz Pacher, a young government employee,

soon suspected who his companion in disguise might be.

For several years, the empress would secretly send him letters,

including this poem, "The Song of the Yellow Domino,"

their last correspondence.

"Do you remember that night in the glowing ballroom?

Long, long ago, where two souls once met.

Where our odd friendship began.

Do you think of the words so intimately trusting

that we exchanged by the loud dance music?

Only too fast our time dwindled away.

A press of the hand, yet I had to fly.

I did not dare unveil my face to you,

but I did show my soul to the light."

The sensitive Josef Strauss

would surely have sympathized with this lonely soul.

His masterpiece, "Harmony of the Spheres,"

remains one of the most impressive tone poems

of Viennese music.


[ Cheers and applause ]

Everyone who watches the New Year's celebration

knows to stay tuned for three encores.

You already know what the last two will be,

but, first, we'll enjoy a quick polka.

Empress Elisabeth had a passion for the hunt.

From 1876, for seven years,

she made numerous excursions to the British Isles,

where she maintained several stables

and participated in fox and stag hunts.

Her constant riding companion was the famed British equestrian

George "Bay" Middleton,

an ancestor of the current Duchess of Cambridge.

and one of the best riders to hounds who ever lived.

Middleton arranged every aspect of her hunting

and would be there to greet her each year when she arrived with

her own horses, a staff of 80,

and she even brought her own cows,

because she preferred their milk.

It was rumored that the two were lovers,

but no evidence of this survives.

In her final season of February and March 1882,

the empress managed to hunt on 22 out of a possible 28 days,

at times through waterlogged fields and deep snow.

Bay Middleton was soon to be married,

and when they parted that final spring,

the empress was inconsolable with grief.

She knew they would never meet again.

So, now, with the sound of the horns,

we're off to the hunt.

[ Cheers and applause ]


[ Cheers and applause ]

Vienna's giant Ferris wheel, the Riesenrad,

in the Prater park, is just as much a fixture of Vienna

as are the Lippizaners.

If you haven't taken a ride on

the world's oldest working wheel,

built to celebrate the golden jubilee

of Emperor Franz Joseph 125 years ago,

then you haven't really been to Vienna at all.

From 212 feet over the city's rooftops, on a clear day,

you can see the steeple of Saint Stephen's Cathedral

and all the way to the Vienna Woods

that surround the city.

Back at the Musikverein, it's time to play

that musical symbol of Vienna

and Austria's unofficial national anthem,

Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz."


-[ Speaking in German ]


[ Cheers and applause ]

-It's time for Daniel Barenboim to signal the drummer

to begin the charming "Radetzky March."

Yes, charming, because this march

contains a waltz tune.

Listen for it in the trio.

Now, after this melody, the conductor invites the audience

to join the orchestra and clap along with the beat.

At home for the holidays, like you,

I'm Hugh Bonneville wishing you and yours

a joyous and peaceful 2022.

[ Applause ]


-To find out more about this and other "Great Performances"

programs, visit

Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

To order the New Year's Concert 2022 on DVD or Blu-ray

or the CD, visit or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.


[ Cheers and applause ]

You're watching PBS.


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