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Distinctive New Years Tradition

Thanks to dotCommonwealer Nicholas Clifford, I am listening to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra annual New Year's Eve concert (presumably being rebroadcast). It is ending with the Blue Danube Waltz to be followed by the Radeztky March  (after which the great Joseph Roth novel is titled).

Approximately two hours of Viennese Waltz's gets you up for the New Year. But as we approach the 100th anniversary of the opening scenes of WWI, you have to wonder whether the Austro-Hungarians spent too much time in musical froth, and not enough asking what Emperor Franz Joseph was up to. And Freud? What did he make of all this?

Dah, Dah, Dah, DahDe! Happy New Year with hopes the 2014 ends more peacefully than 1914.

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The charm point was the Josef Strauss waltz that Richard Strauss plagiarized for Baron Ochs's  "Mit mir!" The waltz as  the opium of a society tottering toward a precipice is almost a cliché of musical modernism -- as in Ravel's stupendous "La Valse". Stephen Toulmin in "Wittgenstein's Vienna" sees the waltz as the music of nihilistic divertissement or oblivion. Checking this, I see a reference to Toulmin's review of Schorske under the title "Vienna Waltzes" in Commonweal 29 August 1980. Whtat goes around goes around again and again...

 

 

 

Apparently so: what goes around goes around again and again...as with the waltz. Thanks for the Toulmin cite. I'll look it up on the handy CWL archives!

Maybe Nietzsche got his nutty idea of the Eternal Return while waltzing drunkenly!

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.