Zubin Mehta aims to unite the world at Vienna New Year’s concert

The 78-year-old conductor will be holding the baton for a fifth time at the annual concert in Vienna, televised live to 50 million people in about 90 countries.
The Indian conducter Zubin Mehta. Dieter Nagl / AFP
The Indian conducter Zubin Mehta. Dieter Nagl / AFP

The Indian maestro Zubin Mehta hopes to inject some much-needed harmony into the world when he conducts the illustrious Vienna New Year’s Concert tomorrow.

“All over the world there are people who hate each other,” Mehta told the Austrian daily Die Presse. “This music can at least bring people together for two and a half hours.”

The 78-year-old will be holding the baton for a fifth time at the annual concert, televised live to 50 million people in about 90 countries. Those able to watch for the first time, include Ukraine, the Bahamas, Armenia and Mehta’s native India.

The Vienna Philharmonic’s annual Neujahrskonzert, which rings in the new year from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, is devoted largely to the kings of 19th-century waltz, the Strauss family. However, each year, a little variety is added to the mix and this time there will also be music marking the 650th anniversary of University of Vienna, the 200th birthday of the Austrian capital’s Technical University, and the 150th anniversary of Vienna’s Ringstrasse boulevard.

“Certain traditions give people a feeling of safety,” says Andreas Grossbauer, the Vienna Philharmonic’s new chairman. “Bedtime stories, birthday cakes – and perhaps also the New Year’s Concert.”

The event began on December 31, 1939, under the Nazis but from these dark beginnings it gradually became a much-loved, regular event in the classical-music calendar.

The Mumbai-born Mehta, who studied in Vienna in 1954 and whose posts have included music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducted the concert in 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2007. He said he was “just as excited” about this year’s performance as he had been before his first.

“I can think of no greater [honour],” he said. “When I walk from the Imperial [hotel] towards the Konzerthaus of the Musikverein, it’s like I was in my living room. I feel so at home here.”

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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