Why I Stopped Watching the New Year’s Concert

It is the second New Year’s concert during the COVID19 pandemic. And it seems that the Vienna Philharmonic and the Austrian Broadcasting Company (ORF) rather follow the motto of “The same procedure as every year” than actually stopping for a moment to consider the times we are living in.

An old white man probably flown in by private jet conducts the orchestra made up mostly of Caucasian men yet again. The music they perform was written by dead white men. Everything about that summary is simply wrong.

Luckily, we have more female conductors who still often have to fight male machoism when raising the baton. A tiny bit of research would bring many waltzes composed by female composers to light. They are there. They are just ignored. And why not commission some waltzes from female composers who have just suffered through probably the worst time of their life because of the pandemic? Would it hurt to include young artists from around the world who face a continued existential crisis because of the pandemic in the concert and/or the televised version?

The same procedure as every year.

Austria is proud that the New Year’s Concert gets televised to over 90 countries around the world. I remember living abroad and never missing the broadcast. It was part of feeling at home. But can we still be proud of something which seems more and more out of touch?

When you reach millions every year, don’t you have an obligation to advocate for change, equality, respect, and diversity? Just think for a moment how much hope a New Year’s concert conducted by a female conductor with a diverse program of various composers and some new commissions would signal to the world? The Vienna Philharmonic, the ORF, and its sponsor Rolex should address these issues and stop repeating an outdated model.

But, alas, the Vienna Philharmonic has just announced another white dude to conduct the New Year’s Concert 2023…

The same procedure as every year.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash