Our favourite music to ring in the New Year

28 December 2023

There are so many great songs specifically written for the New Year period (including those by Taylor Swift and ABBA), but what about your classical music fix to end the festive season? Ahead of Welsh National Opera Orchestra’s annual Viennese-themed New Year concert tour, let’s look to some of our favourite pieces to celebrate and welcome in the New Year.

Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks

Although George Frederick Handel was German by birth, he spent most of his working life in England, later composing for the English Royal Court. His Music for the Royal Fireworks was commissioned by King George II to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession. The Baroque masterpiece was first performed in April 1749 in Green Park, St James in London. To make sure the music could be heard above the park’s firework display, the enormous instrumental forces used apparently included three pairs of timpani, nine horns and trumpets, 12 bassoons and a staggering 24 oboe players.

Benjamin Britten A New Year Carol

Benjamin Britten composed music for a great many Christmas carols, and his serene 1934 A New Year Carol is a setting of the traditional folk song from Walter de la Mare’s Tom Tiddler’s Ground (1931). Also known as Levy-Dew and Residue, the carol has its origins in Welsh New Year celebrations and the old tradition of sprinkling people with water newly drawn from a well.

Emile Waldteufel Les Patineurs (The Ice Skaters)

The French composer Émile Waldteufel wrote his Les Patineurs in 1882, a grand orchestral waltz inspired by the ice skaters at Paris’s Bois de Boulogne during the freezing cold winter of 1879-1880. Reaching the region’s lowest recorded temperature of -25℃, the river Seine froze over and many took to their local parks and rivers to enjoy a spot of ice skating. The piece is now a firm favourite of the Viennese New Year concert tradition.

Auld Lang Syne

The Scottish custom of singing Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is now widespread across the English-speaking world, but not a lot of people know that the original poem was written in 1788 by Scotland’s beloved Robert Burns. Bidding farewell to the previous year and welcoming the dawn of a new one, Auld Lang Syne is a staple of New Years celebrations, traditionally sung at midnight while holding hands with your neighbours, friends and family.

Johann Strauss II Tritsch-Tratsch Polka

Among Johann Strauss II’s countless works, he composed numerous waltzes and polkas, earning him the reputation as the ‘Waltz King’ across Europe. One of his most lively works is the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, composed in 1858 following his concert tour to St Petersburg, Russia. In German, Tritsch-Tratsch translates to Chit-chat, the title referring to the famous Viennese love for gossip.

If this music has tempted you to celebrate the New Year, don’t miss WNO Orchestra’s dazzling A Viennese Celebration concert, visiting Swansea, Truro, Newtown, Bangor, Brecon, Southampton, Cardiff and St Davids from 4 to 20 January 2024.