The best moment in the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day Concert comes after the end of the advertised programme. The conductor gives a tiny gesture, the violins start a shimmer of tremolando, and a ripple of applause spreads through the hall. At this point, if you’re watching with first-timers, they’ll look at you, surprised. Why have they stopped? And you smile, because you know what the conductor knows, what the orchestra knows and what even the audience in the Musikverein — those bejewelled Eurostiffs in their £1,000 seats — knows. We’re about to hear The Blue Danube, and music doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, that’s how it feels to me, anyway. The Blue Danube was the first piece of music I ever loved and nothing I’ve heard since has persuaded me that those opening moments are anything other than musical genius in its purest naturally occurring form.