Music from Vienna 
Schubert and the Strauss Family

Report of our Concert given on 16 May 2015
at St John the Baptist Church, Harleston

 

This was our largest audience for some time, excited to see their local orchestra having a good time playing music which had emerged from Vienna, the 19th century ‘capital of music making in Europe’.

The crowd positively bubbled at the humour of our first piece, the Egyptian March, Op. 335 from Johann Strauss (composer, conductor and violinist, 1825-99).

Its big beat was loved particularly by brass and percussion sections, and was set alight by our talented Leader, in fez and a fine baritone voice few fiddlers could equal. The actual words however escaped us ….. .

Next Franz Schubert (1797-1828), who spent all his life in Vienna, composed the incidental music for the lost play Rosamunde, Prinzessin von Cypern (Vienna, 1823), of which only the Three Entr’Actes we played are extant. Nevertheless, rousing music with beautiful melodies came from the now fired-up players.

Following this came Annen Polka, composed by the same member of the Strauss family who had produced Egyptian March, proving that he was quite capable of dancing, when not in military mode.

Members (the more agile ones) of the audience were invited to dance to the music, which would have been tricky, in the somewhat tight pews. Nevertheless, I have since been advised that Henry the youthful Labrador was seen to wag his tail in meticulous time to the beat.

Of Schubert’s ten Symphonies, No. 3 in D major, was written in 1815, a few months after his 18th birthday. Of the four movements, the Allegro con brio is remarkable for its charm and the interplay of solo clarinet with syncopated strings. This extremely dramatic movement owes much to the influence of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), whose music was popular at the time, and is particularly evident in the overture-like structure.

A delightful Allegretto in ternary form follows, full of grace and humour, before a high-spirited Minuet, which, with its accented up-beats, suggests a scherzo contrasted by a graceful Ländler-like trio. The concluding Presto in tarantella rhythm is remarkable for its bold harmonic progressions, and for its wealth of dynamic contrast.

Our final piece for this evening was written by the father of the same Johann Strauss we heard in the first half of the concert. Strauss Senior was much-travelled in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and the UK.

Op. 234 Pizzicato Polka, one of fourteen, was probably written at the time its composer was involved in dance and ballroom music, when the form was very popular in Vienna. As with his son, he too excelled in marches, the most popular of which has been the Radetsky March, frequently performed at the Viennese New Year celebrations. Our performance, despite the particular challenges to the string section, was well received, and a made a suitable ending to Music from Vienna.

Our thanks were extended to Harleston Parish church, the crisp acoustics of which were appreciated by players and audience alike.

Richard Ware, May 2015