A New Year's tradition
As I write this, I am sitting in front of an open fire, looking out the window at snow-covered woods and a frozen pond in the Polish countryside. The radio is on: La la la la LA, LA LA, la la….la la la la LA, LA LA, la la. It’s a Strauss waltz, of course, written to evoke the waves of the Danube, a carriage ride through the Vienna woods or some other experience worthy of the cover of a chocolate box. For this is the hour of the New Year’s Concert from Vienna: Every year, on the morning of January 1, little old ladies all over the realm of what used to be the Austro-Hungarian empire tune in to listen to a couple of hours of what was, in effect, the bad pop music of another era.
When I first encountered this phenomenon, I was stunned by the reverence with which “The Concert” was treated by broadcasters. This morning’s radio announcer, after pointing out that tickets for this magical event were sold out a year ago and that “millions” were listening to the broadcast, described the Concert as “unforgettable” and “unmatchable.” The television version, which I have learned to avoid, is far worse: The treacly music is accompanied by ghastly scenes of ladies in pink and blue ballgowns, dancing waltzes and polkas with men in tails, all shot in soft focus.
Yet here I am, listening to the applause in the Vienna concert hall once again, because I have grown sentimental, too. The fact is that I have mocked the soppy music of Johann Strauss and his compatriots year in and year out, in the company of different people in different parts of Central Europe. Doing it once again -- this time with my children, who are twirling around the room and laughing -- brings back memories. And that, I suppose, is how traditions are born.
| January 1, 2010; 6:10 AM ET
Categories: Applebaum | Tags: Anne Applebaum
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