Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wiener Imperial Orchester Wien - Mozart & Strauss - 10/16/09

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro - Voi che sapete...
Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Beethoven: Romance in Vienna
Don Giovanni - La ci darem la mano...
Haydn: Vogel Quartet
Schubert: Military March
Mozart: Turkish March
Lumbye: Champagne Galop
J. Strauss: Overture to Der Fledermaus
J. Strauss: Voices of Spring
J. Strauss: Persian March
Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen
J. Strauss: On the Blue Danube
J. Strauss: Wiener Blut

So long Budapest and hello Vienna, self-appointed (and not yet proven wrong) musical capital of the world, a city so intrinsically linked to music that the only two problems likely to face the music fan there is the incredible number of options and the occasional difficulty in getting a ticket. After having secured one for Tosca at the State Opera months beforehand and grabbed a standing room one for the Vienna Philharmonic as soon I had gotten there (Theirs are not available on the Internet) I started to check out what was going on during the rest of my stay since until then everything had depended on the Holy Grail: the availability of the Vienna Philharmonic. The Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra with Dudamel was of course sold out, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra couldn't be bad, except that I hadn't come all this way to listen to the Russian music they were playing that week. I was going to get my fill of Beethoven on Sunday, but what about Vienna's other famous son, Mozart? I eventually came across the Wiener Imperial Orchester, and although its program definitely sounded like "Viennese Composers 101", I figured it would be an appropriate first outing before the more high-brow fare to come later.
The first surprise was that the concert was going to take place in a school, but quite a school. An old red-brick building featuring a fancily decorated arched hallway, this was a decidedly informal setting for a decidedly informal audience obviously composed of international visitors for whom this was just another cultural stop between an art museum and a pastry shop. The only language NOT spoken was German. However, if the attendees were all foreigners, the orchestra was bona fide Viennese and included members of big name ensembles. So we seemed to be in good hands.

And the first part of the performance was indeed a quick and enjoyable review of Mozart's greatest hits, with Beethoven, Schubert and birthday boy Haydn thrown in for good measure. The musicianship was uniformly impressive, bur the poor singers had sometimes trouble being heard in "La ci darem la mano", which was regrettable because they were a strong and well-matched duo. The same issue surfaced again when the piano was not discernible during The Turkish March, but I guess one cannot expect top-notch acoustics from a space not designed for live performances.
I have to confess of letting my attention waver during much of the second part of the evening, which was mostly dedicated to Johann Strauss. I'll be the first one to admit that once in a while, On the Blue Danube makes a nice encore, but I am generally not too fond of waltzes or operettas, so it was quickly getting painful. Even the competent dancers who showed up for a couple of numbers couldn't save me from the slumber I was inexorably falling in. But suddenly our young and amiable master of ceremony unexpectedly treated us to a sharp Zigeunerweisen, interrupted a couple of times for unnecessary crowd-pleasing interplay with the pianist, and that luckily injected some virtuosic fun into the proceedings.

So it was not a completely wasted evening, for sure, just a bit too light and too obviously oriented towards beginners for my taste. Hearing Eine kleine Nachtmusik live is always a pleasure, of course, and it actually does not happen very often, so that certainly was one of the highlights, but it was high time to move on to more substantial offerings.

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