United Kingdom Johann Strauss II, Johann Strauss & Josef Strauss: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / James Clarke (director, violin), Guild Hall, City of Preston, 19.12.2016 (MC)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra presents – The Last Waltz – The Strauss Dynasty in Vienna with John Suchet (presenter)
Johann Strauss II – Tic-Tac Polka; Waltz Die Gunstwerber (Wooers of favour); Music of the Spheres Waltz; Tales from the Vienna Woods; Die Fledermaus overture; Tritsch-Tratsch Polka; Emperor Waltz; New Pizzicato Polka; On the Beautiful Blue Danube
Josef Strauss – Cachucha Galop; Woman’s Heart, Polka-Mazurka
Johann Strauss I – Radetsky March
Held a week before Christmas this was the perfect time for the Liverpool Phil’s The Last Waltz – The Strauss Dynasty in Vienna concert at Preston Guild Hall. The masterstroke was the engagement of well known television and radio personality, and Strauss family biographer, John Suchet as host for the evening.
The music and general interest in the Strauss dynasty is kept alive mainly by the annual New Year’s Day Concert played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016 this yearly event enjoys great international popularity through the worldwide television broadcast to 50 million people in over 90 countries. Watching or listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna with its selection of waltzes, galops and polkas, mainly from the Strauss family, has become a tradition in many households. In recent decades this interest in the music of the Strauss family has been amplified by the popularity of violinist André Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra which he founded in 1987, and who play all over the world to huge audiences and can also be regularly seen on DVD/Blu-ray and television.
With the towering figure of James Clarke standing to direct from the violin, the orchestra performed twelve works and an encore, all well chosen works that demonstrated the vitality and creative authority of the compositions of the Strauss dynasty. Sitting at the front of the stage, to one side of the podium, John Suchet, now a Classic FM presenter, captivated the audience with his smooth, assured delivery introducing the Strauss family works to be played. In addition, Suchet gave a number of engaging anecdotes from his Strauss biography The Last Waltz, all delivered with his trademark unerring enthusiasm.
Highlights were two of the most performed works: On the Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II, a musical postcard of Vienna that just melted with charm and a glorious Viennese lilt; and from Johann Strauss I, the ever stirring Radetzky March complete with audience participation which exuded its usual magnitude of frisson. I was rather surprised that the Radetzky March concluded the first half rather than its usual spot towards the conclusion of the concert or as an encore piece. There was a highly robust performance of both Tic-Tac Polka and Tritsch-Tratsch Polkas, and almost inevitably the frequently played Pizzicato Polka which never fails to captivate. Predicable was Clarke’s ending to Perpetuum Mobile saying “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera”, an attempt at humour that I have heard many times before.
Under James Clarke’s direction the Liverpool Phil lavished utmost care and attention on these uplifting and popular works; a testimony to its unerring spirit.