The Dome, Brighton, Sunday 31 December 2017
New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala Concert
A very happy new year to all and what better way to celebrate than with Brighton Philharmonic at their annual Viennese Gala. Out of a finely balanced programme of familiar favourites and welcome additions, the highlight was without any doubt the mellifluous coloratura of Rebecca Bottone. Opening with the audition song from Die Fledermaus she moved effortlessly into Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tyrol from Zeller’s Der Vogelhandler, later adding the waltz song from Edward German’s Tom Jones.
If this latter piece seemed somewhat out of place it was very much part of Barry Wordsworth’s approach to these New Year’s Eve concerts, aiming to include a range of British pieces which sit comfortably alongside the Viennese. As such Gershwin’s By Strauss could hardly fail even if Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves was a more unusual addition.
The second half opened with Malcolm Arnold’s English Dance No8 – a raucous item guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away and Richard Rodney Bennett’s waltz for the film score of Murder on the Orient Express.
Rebecca Bottone returned to bring us a vocal setting of Strauss’ waltz Wo die Citronen blüh’n and, the vocal highlight of the afternoon, Vilja from The Merry Widow. The Brighton audience is so knowledgeable and well trained that we had no difficulty providing the hushed choral support needed for this lovely piece!
If this implies there was a dearth of actual Viennese music – far from it. We heard twelve works from the Strauss family running from the overture to Die Fledermaus to The Blue Danube, taking in along the way Voices of Spring, Auf der Jagd and my particular favourite Die Libelle – the Dragonfly Polka.
From Lehar, in addition to Vilja¸ we heard the Gold and Silver Waltz.
The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra were on fine form with some excellent solo work from John Bardbury, providing exquisite violin solos, harpist Helen Sharp and piccolo Deborah Davis.
There was just time for the inevitable encore – Strauss’ Radetsky March – with audience and orchestra in perfect accord.
Barry Wordsworth announced that the orchestra, which relies on its audience for the bulk of its income, is secure for the next twelve months and dates have already been issued for the new 2018-19 season. Be there!