By Lawrence Budmen

The commencement of a new year and the Viennese waltzes of the Strauss family have become synonymous. Long a tradition in Austria and Central Europe, the Viennese New Year concerts have become international events via radio and television broadcast. In North America the Toronto based Attila Glatz Concerts has been producing Salute to Vienna performances in cities across the United States and Canada for over a decade. The latest installment of multiple South Florida presentations brought the Strauss Symphony of America to the stage of the Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center in Miami, Florida, USA on January 2, 2010.

Commanding a podium bedecked in flowers, Hamburg born Klaus Arp distilled the pulse of the Viennese waltz. A multi-faceted composer and conductor, Arp proved a refined classicist, drawing expressive performances from the excellent orchestra (led by concertmaster Scott Flavin) and highlighting overlooked inner voices of the orchestral fabric.

An enthusiastic advocate of the operettas of Franz von Suppe, Arp opened the program with a rare performance of the lively Overture to Viennese Jubilee, essayed with the quintessential lilt that spells Vienna. The more familiar Overture to Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna was delightfully lithe and airy. Arp gave special attention to contrasts of loud and soft and precise instrumental articulation in the Pizzicato Polka of Johann and Josef Strauss. He conveyed the wit of Strauss' Perpetual Mobile, aided by some really brilliant playing from the ensemble.

Six dancers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine lit up the stage with colorful costumes and sweeping romantic choreography by Aniko Rekhviashvili in the Emperor Waltz, spun with winning lift and verve by Arp, and an effervescent version of Artists' Life (Kunstlerleben Waltzes). Wild multi-hued costumes and Viennese psychedelic display for the eye and ear infused Strauss' appropriately titled Furioso Polka.

Soprano Ute Ziemer, who counts Elizabeth Schwarzkopf among her teachers, was the ultimate operetta pro, singing with style, flair and elegance. She tossed off Mein Herr Marquis (Adele's Laughing Song) from Die Fledermaus with flawless coloratura and bright insouciance. Her hilarious impersonation of an inebriated soprano in the aria Schwipslied from A Night in Venice was great fun. Icelandic born Thorsteinn Arbjornsson exuded a strong, manly lyric tenor with a stentorian rendition of Freunde Leben ist Jebenswert from Franz Lehar's Giuditta. Arbjornsson treated the thrice familiar Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from The Land of Smiles with the delicacy of Schubertian art song, phrasing with elevated artistry. Ziemer and Arbjornsson brought irrisistible chemistry and brio to the title duet from Strauss' Wiener Blut and lovely, idiomatic finesse to the waltz from Lehar's The Merry Widow.

Arp concluded the printed program with a droll, up tempo performance of the Weiber-Marsch from The Merry Widow but there are always encores at Viennese New Year concerts. Arp highlighted beautiful instrumental lines in an unusually detailed and artful version of The Blue Danube waltz. Ziemer and Arbjornsson contributed fine vocalism in a spirited Champaign Toast from Die Fledermaus and led the audience in the traditional Auld Lang Syne. Finally the inevitable Radetzky March (with the audience clapping along) brought the festive evening to a high spirited conclusion.

Arp and his fine orchestra, vocal soloists and dancers brought great élan and entertaining showmanship to these wonderful candied Viennese bon-bons. This high energy performance was a great way to welcome 2010!



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