Updated: Mar 6
By Alkis Karmpaliotis, High School Student NYC
Founder of AppreciateOpera.org
Every year, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the most pristine in the world, invites a conductor to lead their famous series of New Year's concerts, performed on December 30, December 31, and January 1 (the third of which is internationally televised). Conducting the New Year's concert has for decades been considered a great honor. Past conductors include Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, and Lorin Maazel, among other all-time great baton wavers. The next guest conductor is announced only a day after the concert takes place, and since 1987, the orchestra elects a different maestro each year.
Because of the custom of inviting a different guest each year, the three-time conductor of the concert, Daniel Barenboim, is eliminated from contention, as he is slated to lead the 2022 festivities.
So who might conduct the 2022-23 concerts?
Honorable Mentions: Andris Nelsons, Christian Thielemann, Gustavo Dudamel
These conductors have each conducted the concert once, all in the last decade. Despite being very famous and respected young maestri, it is relatively unlikely that they rejoin the philharmonic, due to the recency of their New Year's concert debuts.
While recurring guest conductors like Franz Welser-Möst or Riccardo Muti might return to the concert again next year (Welser-Möst is far more likely since he hasn't been invited since 2013), it is probable that a new conductor will take the baton in 2023. Here are some possibilities, in increasing order of likelihood:
Recently appointed principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic - arguably the highest title for a conductor in the world - Kirill Petrenko is one of the world's leading conductors. He is scheduled to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic several times in 2022 and is therefore a leading candidate in the race to conduct the concert next year.
Interestingly, however, the last principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic to conduct the new year's concert was Claudio Abbado in 1991. This might be due to the fact that every year, the Berlin Philharmonic also performs a New Year's Eve concert, which might prevent its principal conductor from conducting in Vienna.
Another conductor who is perhaps even more likely to conduct the New Year's concert next year is Philippe Jordan. Jordan is the music director of the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Symphony, as well as the Opéra National de Paris. In 2019, he conducted Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Quite the résumé!
Despite this, he is not scheduled to perform any concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2022, perhaps an indicator that he will not join them for the new year's concert.
Valery Gergiev has conducted the Vienna Philharmonic dozens, if not hundreds of times in his illustrious career, and is scheduled to join them numerous times in 2022. Being the masterful conductor of Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and other great Russian composers that he is, it is very possible that Gergiev would not be a particularly good conductor of light Viennese music, such as that typically performed at the new year's concert.
His close relationship and history with the orchestra, however, keep him in the conversation as a possible future conductor of the concert.
The young British maestro Daniel Harding has for many years been a regular guest conductor of the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and in 2021, conducted the Vienna Summer Night's concert at Schönbrunn Palace - quite an honor in and of itself.
This may finally be his year to take the podium at the Musikverein and conduct the new year's concert for the first time.
My personal number one pick is the spectacular Herbert Blomstedt, who has for decades been a regular guest of every major worldwide orchestra, most notably the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics. He is a magnificent conductor of Bruckner, Beethoven, and countless other great composers, and is conducting the Vienna Philharmonic several times in 2022. Having been described as"friendly", "honest and genuine", and "youthful, even in old age", he is the perfect conductor for this event, and it is puzzling why he has never performed it.
Blomstedt will be 95 years old by the time of the 2023 new year's concert, and yet despite his old age, he actively performs in concert halls and operas around the world. His age should not be a reason not to choose him, as conducting the new year's concert would put a cap on his remarkable career.
Here is a wonderful video made by members of the Berlin Philharmonic to celebrate Blomstedt's 90th birthday:
Who do you think will conduct the next new year's concert? Leave a comment down below!
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