This year in Vienna their Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the New Year under the baton of a distinguished elderly French conductor. Whilst we in Edinburgh had the good fortune to have a young Austrian conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. David Danzmayr is in his third year as the RSNO’s assistant conductor.
He has a graceful movement and presence and does not need to jump around to be in control of his colleagues. Each time he turned on his podium to tell us about the music he was clear, informative and a bit of a wag. But more than anything he was a proud Austrian showing off his country’s musical best.
This was a gala concert and the orchestra played eleven waltzes, seven by Johann Strauss II with Schnitzler, Lehár , Tchaikovsky and Puccini. There were the favourites but also, in the conductor’s words, some Austrian rarities.
From across Austria’s border, Bavaria, came the soloist, Heidi Elisabeth Meier, who was making a welcome return for she had sung arias with the RSNO in November 2008. She is described as a lyric coloratus soprano and wonderfully demonstrated her versatility and voluptuous voice in her three solos. The smile on the faces of senior members of the orchestra showed just how much she was being appreciated on stage and with her own lovely smile as a bonus was much applauded by a captivated audience.
There was fun too. Strauss’s Perpetuum mobile, a musical joke, is a piece which keeps repeating itself every three minutes or so. The conductor told us, with Austrian seriousness, that he would carry on way past midnight unless the audience stopped him. A few minutes in and the tympanist, sitting high at the back of the orchestra, was gesticulating frantically. He clearly had decided we had heard enough and the conductor stopped in midstream.
We heard an Austrian Polka as a programmed encore half way through the second half of the concert in time honoured manner and after the final bow the Radetzky march as encore, with audience clapping under the baton, as the final and happy ending to the celebrations.
Event: Monday 4 January 2010 7.30 pm.
Photo credit: Tom Finnie