TITLE: Viennese Whirl by Orchestra of Opera North
VENUE: Huddersfield Town Hall
BY Chris Robins
THERE have always been dance crazes, mostly for a few months, but the waltz has been unstoppable for 200 years.
In the hands of Johann Strauss II and his contemporaries it was admired by Brahms, Wagner and Schoenberg, with "something tragic" about it according to the great Austrian conductor Felix Weingartner.
Perhaps this hint of darkness amid the glitter explains why the Viennese waltz and its companion the polka have lasted so long. In the hands of Opera North’s magnificent orchestra – one of the most subtle and expressive in the world – you could hear the greatness of this music as well as its sheer entertainment value.
The dark side extended to all the concert’s composers including Ivor Novello. First evidence came in the melancholic cello solo – wonderfully played by Jessica Burroughs – in Suppé’s Morning Noon and Night In Vienna and was prominent in Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier waltzes which were sumptuously, symphonically and seductively played.
The most moving performance was the younger Johann Strauss’ Roses From The South, the perfectly measured tempo revealing the ambiguous inner parts and frantic nature of some of its sub-sections. Conductor Jacek Kaspszyk showed this bitter-sweet piece to be a thing of genius. His control of the whole concert was superb, always finding the right tempo.
Halifax-born tenor Ed Lyon can sing everything from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady to Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and he demonstrated his amazing flexibility in beautiful performances of arias from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Novello’s Dancing Years, Flotow’s Martha and Lehar’s Land of Smiles. A hugely difficult task to manage these different styles – but he did it expertly.
The concert was wittily and discreetly compered by Yorkshireman Mark Forrest – recently transferred from Classic FM to the BBC – in his warmest broadcasting manner.