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Introduction

Stage, screen and recording legend Julie Andrews rings in the new year as she hosts From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2009, Thursday, January 1 at 2:30 and 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Joining her for the annual Vienna Philharmonic holiday extravaganza will be celebrated conductor Daniel Barenboim, who will lead the orchestra in a sparkling program of Strauss waltzes, marches and polkas. The telecast marks the first appearance for each as host and conductor respectively of the program, beamed around the world to an estimated 1.2 billion viewers from the Musikverein, the gilded hall that houses the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

“What a joy to return to Vienna, which has always been a magical place for me,” Andrews says. “And to go at holiday time makes it very special indeed. You’ve never really heard The Blue Danube Waltz until you’ve heard it played by the very orchestra Strauss once led.”

Ms. Andrews carries on for longtime host Walter Cronkite, who relinquishes the post with this telecast. “Though ending this tradition comes with some sadness for me, I am very much looking forward to resuming the long-held custom of spending the holidays with my family and friends,” notes the venerable newsman, who hosted the first international telecast in 1985. “I am also deeply honored that Julie Andrews has been chosen to carry on what has become a holiday high point for millions across America.”

Mr. Barenboim and Ms. Andrews are both longtime Great Performances favorites. He last appeared on the series in 2007’s Barenboim on Beethoven, she in 2004 introducing her 1957 performance in a special digitally remastered encore of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She also hosted the Emmy Award-winning series Broadway: The American Musical in 2004.

Musical highlights of From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2009 include Strauss Jr.’s Gypsy Baron Overture, Thunder and Lightning Polka and The Blue Danube Waltz, danced in the hall by children selected from the Ballet School of the Vienna State Opera.

“Since we first presented this concert 25 years ago, we are proud and delighted it’s become a beloved broadcast tradition at holiday time,” says David Horn, Executive Producer of the telecast and Great Performances. “Needless to say, we look forward to the next 25 years of high spirits and irresistible melody.”

From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2009 is directed by Brian Large, with John Walker as producer/writer.

Major corporate funding for this telecast was provided by Rolex. Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Major funding for this telecast was also provided by The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund and Vera von Kuffner Eberstadt.