We left the old country when I was ten, and after that it was sporadic - we'd catch a Konzert here or there, and the conductors changed, and the music was always a general mixture of Straussiana old and new - but every concert ended in a traditional way, with three encores. THe first was always a mystery, announced on the night, and was yet another waltz or polka, and could be anything. But the second and the third, everyone knew.
There are only a handful of melodies which require no more than one note to be instantly recognized.
And for me... there really is only one waltz.
That first tremulous chord of the "Beautiful Blue Danube" always makes tears come to my eyes - my river, MY river, *mine*, born on its banks, walking on its levees hand in hand with grandpa hearing stories of the times the river froze over and they held horse-drawn sleigh races on the ice, smelling the ripe old mud, thinking about the ancient slow-moving catfish that meandered in its murky depths. Never blue, not where I was born, already an old and muddy river which sometimes stank of rot and of diesel... but my river. MINE. And so is that waltz, that first trembling note, and then the unravelling of that rich tapestry which I know so well, know to the note, which I could cheerfully replace the orchestra conductor and conduct the orchestra in its performance myself.
And then the last encore, the traditional envoi, the Radetzky March, scored (only in Vienna) for orchestra and audience, which comes in with a rhythmic clapping when the conductor turns and leads them to join in.
The PBS carried the 2007 Neujaahrskonzert this year, and TiVo taped it for us, and we always used to watch it live on January 1 but I am no longer six years old and I no longer live in the old country which is in the same timezone and so we watched it tonight. And I am no longer six years old, but the Danube that flows through my heart is still and always blue, and I still, in spirit, dance.
I'm sure most of us have something like that buried inside of us - that music which took a child and transported it to a magic world. May you always remember your own, may you always, in your heart, dance.
Once again, with feeling, from me and from that pirouetting six year old who could not possibly have known where her roads would take her - far from home and yet always standing on the childhood shores of that majestic old river - happy new year.