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Salute to Vienna

LAWRENCE BUDMEN toasts the New Year in the company of the Strauss Symphony of America


For over five decades Vienna has celebrated the New Year with a concert of waltzes and polkas by the Strauss family and Austria's later 'waltz kings'. The music from this unique genre of Austro-Hungarian operetta is utterly irresistible. These sparkling vignettes are delightful Viennese musical pastries. The Viennese New Year came to South Florida, USA with the Salute to Vienna concert on 3 January 2004 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Austrian born conductor Gert Meditz led the Strauss Symphony of America. Meditz is a real showman. His flashy, flamboyant stage personality, athleticism (he jumped on and off the stage and hit the floor at one point as Strauss's imitation of a gunshot went off), and wry anecdotes captivated the audience. More importantly, Meditz is an excellent conductor and violinist. He drew vivacious performances from his consistently strong orchestra. The Overture to The Gypsy Baron by Johann Strauss Jr got this musical soirée off to an appropriately vigorous start. The playing was crisp, the accents vigorous. The languorous, Magyar inflected oboe solo was elegantly phrased by John Dee. Strauss's Russian March Op 426 was an engaging rarity -- a combination of Viennese champagne and Rimsky-Korsakov accented orchestral color. Meditz and the orchestra played it with wonderful aristocratic elegance.

The Overture to Poet and Peasant by Franz von Suppé (a nineteenth century Viennese operetta king) had the perfect combination of grandeur, elegance, and high spirited fizz. The lovely cello solo was delivered with rich toned authority by Steven Sigurdson. Strauss's witty Banditen Polka Op 378 really crackled in Meditz's brassy rendition. The cork really popped in Meditz's sparkling reading of Strauss's Champagne Polka Op 211. The orchestra played with vigor and zest. Here was Viennese music in stylish performances!

Four members of the Vienna Opera Ballet (Robert Hewitt, Pavel Knolle, Clancy Rowe, and Radka Slatinska) provided entertaining choreographic interpolations to the Viennese musical feast. A lively beach ball ballet accompanied Strauss's all too rarely heard Vom Donaustrande Polka Op 356 -- a salute to Vienna's beach district. Meditz conducted this colorful light music gem with bright, high energy sparkle and the orchestra played with gusto.

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Copyright © 8 January 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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