The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets Series: Mozart and Vienna

Date and Venue May 25, 2017, at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Host Christopher Gaze

Programme Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro; Johann Strauss’ Tales from the Vienna Woods; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68; von Suppé’s Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna; Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute; Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz

Reviewer John Jane

Maestro William Rowson and Host Christopher Gaze guided another Tea & Trumpets Series to a season finale. And what better way to end than with a tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vienna – the city where he achieved so much fame – though not much financial security.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra commenced with the immensely popular Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, from the opera in four acts written by Mozart in 1786. The composer would play fast and loose with deadlines, completing the overture on the night prior to its first public performance. The overture is an abridged sonata structure and is generally considered to be a stand-alone work not containing thematic references within the rest of the opera.

In a program dedicated to Vienna, an obvious choice would be Johann Strauss’ Tales from the Vienna Woods. A strict tempo waltz played by the orchestra with nuanced detail, and as with many Strauss waltzes, it has a bright and airy feel. The music was obviously written for grand ballrooms and elegant couples.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a very German composer born in Bonn, so why feature his Pastoral Symphony in a Vienna themed concert? Well, he moved to Vienna at the age of 21, where he gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist and eventually died in the city at age 56 stone deaf. The second movement, Andante (played today) is in sonata form and more serene than what is typically dramatic of Beethoven’s music. In the quiescent opening bars we hear the string section playing a motif evocative of gently flowing water. This is music to listen to in a garden on a warm summer afternoon.

Franz von Suppé’s sparkling Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna was the second overture on the program. Initially composed for a stage play and first performed in Vienna, it includes syncopated melody lines that are often heard in modern popular music. Christopher Gaze described it in his introduction as “just plain fun.” It was certainly that!

Equally as much fun and just as delightful was Maestro Rowson’s reading of yet a third overture. This time: the overture to Mozart’s last and most successful opera, The Magic Flute. Noted for its Masonic elements, Die Zauberflöte (the original German title) is noted for its sense of spryness. In this regard, the orchestra generously articulated the composer’s intended vivaciousness.

In his introductory remarks to Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz, Christopher Gaze was led to recite British actor and satirist Joyce Grenfell’s poem "Stately as a Galleon" about the lack of men at a senior’s dance class. His recitation definitely set a fitting mood for enjoying the piece. It begins with a tentative introduction in a major key, and when strings and brass define the recognizable waltz theme, it becomes as fluid as the river that shares its name.

© 2017 John Jane