Bournemouth’s Johann Strauss II Gala Rivals Vienna’s New Year Concert

02/01/2017

J. Strauss II, E. Strauss, Waldteufel, Sullivan, Adam: Soraya Mafi (soprano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Frank Zielhorst (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 1.1.2017. (IL)

Strauss II – Overture: The Gypsy Baron; Acceleration Waltz, Adèle’s ‘Audition Song’ from Die Fledermaus, Voices of Spring Waltz, Thunder & Lightning Polka, Emperor Waltz, Persian Waltz, Pleasure Train Polka, On the Beautiful Blue Danube
E. Strauss – Telephone Polka
Waldteufel – Spanish Waltz
Sullivan – ‘The sun whose rays are all ablaze’ from The Mikado
Adam – ‘Air de Coraline’ from Le Toréador

This was the second performance of this concert in a tour criss-crossing the south west of England, beginning in Bristol on 30th December 2016 and finishing in Weymouth on Friday 13th January 2017. It takes in Exeter, Torquay and Cheltenham besides Poole (within the greater Bournemouth conurbation). This annual concert was a sell-out in Poole, and there was no reason to suspect that the same popularity would not occur throughout the tour.

Commencing with the glorious waltz that is the centrepiece of the Gypsy Baron Overture, through the glorious stately Emperor Waltz to the concluding ever-popular Blue Danube Waltz, with some amusing diversions on the way including Eduard Strauss’s Telephone Polka and Johann II’s Pleasure Train Polka with its amusing signal “horn”—all were delivered with great élan by the BSO under its conductor Frank Zielhorst, who proved to be a very amusing compère in his between-pieces jokes and comments. The waltzes had great charm and grace. Some of the violinists, greatly enjoying themselves, swayed with their instruments to the lilt of the music.

Soraya Mafi is a young woman born in Lancashire (in North West England). She has strong confident projection and coloratura. I was particularly impressed with her ‘Air de Coraline’ from Adolphe Adam’s Le Toréador, in which she was joined by a flautist from the orchestra. This charming aria quotes from ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ which, one will recall, Dohnányi used in his exquisite Variations on a Nursery Tune.

As might be expected, encores were demanded at the end of the announced concert. They were Johann Strauss II’s Champagne Polka—appropriate to New Year, complete with popping corks—and Johann Strauss Senior’s Radetzky March played with very enthusiastic audience clapping. 

On the way out I overheard many very satisfied comments. People compared the music performance most favourably with the concert broadcast from Vienna’s Golden Hall of the Musikverein that New Year’s Day morning. Forgetting the Viennese setting, the flowers and the ballet dancers, I could not help but agree.

A glorious beginning to 2017, with promises of a rich choice of music from the BSO over the coming months.

Ian Lace

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