HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year to one and all! I hope your hangovers are not quite as bad as mine today, and that everyone has waltzed in 2010 with the greatest of joy (as they say, keep calm and carry on…).

I’m not one for tradition for tradition’s sake, as you know, but one that I do adore and try never to miss is the New Year’s Day concert from the Vienna Musikverein. If you’re reading this more or less as soon as I’ve written it, you can tune in on BBC2. After the demise of the great Willi Boskovsky, the matter of who would conduct this iconic event each year became, for a while at least, a great bone of contention in the music world and whoever did it was likely to be shredded. I well remember my father chortling over that and saying that actually it didn’t matter: the orchestra could probably play the lot in its sleep, complete with Ur-Viennese schwung.

This year Georges Pretre (b 1924) seems to be having a whale of a time on the podium: he’s a graceful conductor and the look on his face as I watch suggests he is in a sort of personal maestro-heaven-on-earth. It sounds pretty good, too, with a lovely, light, frothy touch to offset all the schlagobers. BBC2 is accompanying it just now with footage of chefs making chocolate…

Ballet coming up now, too (and whoever is narrating – Wogan? – has just called the leading lady the “Primer Ballerina”, as in paint…).

In case you missed it, it will be on BBC4 at 7pm tonight. And meanwhile it’s Friday, so here’s this week’s historical treat: The Blue Danube (naturally) – with the Orchestra of the Berlin Opera conducted by Erich Kleiber, filmed in 1932. 

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"
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