The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: One Night In Vienna

Dates and Venues October 30, 2019 at 8pm at the Centennial Theatre | October 31, 2019 at 2pm at the Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Andrew Crust, Featured performer Jeanette Jonquil – clarinet, Host Christopher Gaze

Program Johann Strauss’ Overture to Die Fledermaus, Vienna Blood, Waltz & On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major, Mozart’s Three German Dances: No. 3 The Sleigh Ride & Clarinet Concerto in A Major, Beethoven’s Turkish March, Schubert’s Rosamunde: Entr'acte No. 3 – Andantino, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 4 in F-sharp minor

Reviewer John Jane

One Night in Vienna is the second concert in the 209/2020 Tea & Trumpets season and an almost identical program to the previous evening concert at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre. The theme of the concert is an invitation to an imaginary stroll through the Wiener Konzerthaus and other concert halls of the great city of Vienna to hear the music by composers that once lived and performed there.

What better way to begin any concert than with an overture? In this instance, Maestro Andrew Crust and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra show a sense of fun in his spirited rendering of the disarmingly airy Overture to Die Fledermaus, the first of three works from the younger Johann Strauss in the repertoire.

The second movement of Symphony No. 94 in G Major, or to give Austrian composer Joseph Haydn’s orchestral work its popular name, the Surprise Symphony proceeds at a gentle pace. That is until a seemingly misplaced sudden fortissimo interrupts the gentle flow of the Andante. Of course, it’s this unexpected feature that gives the symphony its famous nickname.

Next, we heard a pair of very diverse works from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. First, The Sleigh Ride from his Three German Dances. The piece has the delightful sounding original German title of Schlittenfahrt and features percussionist Michael Jarrett playing the sleigh bells. The music is evocative of a sleigh travelling over undulating snow covered ground.

The second work by Mozart is the Clarinet Concerto in A Major featuring VSO principal clarinettist Jeanette Jonquil performing only the Adagio (second movement) with near perfect intonation and control. Originally intended for the Basset clarinet, the melody lines are typically Mozart.

Franz Schubert’s entrancing Entr'acte No. 3 was written as incidental music for Helmina von Chézy's play Rosamunde. The play has long been forgotten, but Schubert’s score, due mainly to performances like this one, has become evermore popular.

Who can leave Vienna (even after an imaginary visit) without embracing the elegant sophistication of the Viennese waltz? Host Christopher Gaze referred to Johann Strauss’ On the Beautiful Blue Danube as an unofficial Austrian national anthem. The audience would likely recall the piece as part of the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey. On this afternoon, its sweeping tempo was stylishly handled by the orchestra.

It has become the norm in Tea & Trumpet concerts for the orchestra to generously offer an encore. Maestro Crust didn't disapoint on this ocassion,choosing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1. It’s perhaps not as recognizable as the Hungarian Dance No. 4 in F-sharp minor, performed previously in the program, but nonetheless played with the same rhythmic tension.

© 2019 John Jane