Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SALUTE TO VIENNA Coming Soon to Los Angeles

Salute to Vienna: International Champion Ballroom Dancers
By Rodney Punt

The Viennese are partial to mixing gaiety and nostalgia, especially when celebrating New Year’s Day. The exemplar is Vienna’s storied “Neujahrskonzert” that launches each new year in the Austrian capital. It’s a confection of waltzes, marches, polkas and gallops, interspersed with operetta excerpts, all delivered non-stop by a host of charming singers, elegant dancers and a bubbling orchestra. You feel happy when you hear the music, but you can also feel a tug at your heart if you pay attention to the lyrics. We'll mix dialects and call the riotous concoction of whipped cream and sentimentality “Schlagsahne mit Schmaltz.”

Experiencing such sensations need not involve a trip to Vienna. A version of the storied celebration, called "Salute to Vienna," returns to the Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday, January 4, with dancers, singers and the Strauss Symphony of America all presided over by the genial conductor, Niels Muus.
Lilla Galambos
A star-studded European cast ushers in the show with a frothy collection of lilting Strauss waltzes, including the beautiful Blue Danube and operetta favorites from Die Fledermaus and The Merry Widow. Featured Viennese artists are soprano Lilla Galambos, tenor Eugene Amesmann, and baritone Thomas Weinhappel, joined by the International Champion Ballroom Dancers and members the Europaballett St. Pölten. It’s an E-ticket Disney Hall ride to Vienna, the fabledCity of Dreams.

A transplanted Dane who is now a fixture of Vienna’s music scene, conductor Muus is simultaneously artistic adviser to Vienna’s Mozarthaus, music director of the Steyr Music Festival, and head of opera programs at Vienna’s Music Conservatory. He knows a thing or two about the Viennese and their musical mentality. He's also acquainted with the Los Angeles music scene, having studied three decades ago with pianist Jakob Gimpel at Cal State University in Northridge.

I placed a call to Muus in his now adopted city of Vienna to ask what’s in store for the performance in Los Angeles. He suggested that the audience listen to both the happy and wistful elements at the upcoming performance.
Niels Muus
Muus: You know, Vienna’s music is lighthearted but it also has an undertow of sorrow. Popular music in Vienna was always about longing for a lost love. In a Viennese song, the first two verses are about nature and love, but the third one is about death; it’s like dancing on a volcano. Richard Strauss talked about how the Marschallin’s farewell (in the opera Der Rosenkavalier) should be performed ‘with one eye wet, the other dry.’ People usually end up smiling and sobbing after hearing the music of Vienna.
Punt: Viennese music in the nineteenth century was also about being, shall we say, naughty and nice. Wasn’t the waltz the dangerous cousin of the older country Ländler, the bad-boy in the triple-meter dance family?

Muus: (Laughs heartily) Oh, yes. The Viennese waltz was considered dangerous. Early in the century the authorities branded it immoral. When people first took up the waltz, it was the closest together dancers had ever held each other. Proper society thought they could get sick from it; at one time it was even forbidden.

Punt: There’s a something of a tradition of Danish musicians visiting Viennese composers. Friedrich Kuhlau, blind in one eye, and the deaf Beethoven found friendship in their mutual handicaps. Danish symphonist Carl Nielson visited Brahms. Will you perform any Danish numbers on this program?

Thomas Weinhappel
Muus: I brought Carl Nielson’s opera Maskarade to Vienna in 1992. But that was my first and last Danish work presented here. I do mainly Austro-German and Italian works now, and after so many years in Viennese environs, I feel more like an Austrian. But, you know, I was born in Pennsylvania of Danish parents on temporary assignment there, and I possess both American and European passports, so I am a lucky man.

Lucky will be the Angelinos hosted by this charmer and his entourage at Disney Hall on January 4. Whether your inclination in early 2015 is for a dash of naughtiness, a dose of humor, or a generous portion of sentimentality, there will be moods to spare for you at an enchanting Salute to Vienna in 2015. 

Why, the entire family can party like it’s 1899 all over again.


Coming attraction: Salute to Vienna
Sunday, January 4 at 2:30 pm
Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets: $42 - $126 -- See www.ticketmaster.com or call (800) 745-3000

Photos courtesy of Attila Glatz Concert Productions
Rodney Punt can be contacted at [email protected]

No comments: