In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a passion for dance music and dancing seized Vienna, leading to the establishment of public ballrooms – the waltz, a dance that required bodily contact, was at the centre of the craze. Anything more than holding hands while dancing was previously unheard of, but as Yvonne Kenny put it, everyone soon realised they rather quite liked a little bit of bodily contact – the romance of the waltz.
MSO Pops, with Kenny, presented a thoroughly enjoyable program of Viennese dance music, indulging the audience with rarely performed operettas and orchestral pieces, as well as well-known favourites.
MSO Pops concerts have a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, with the performers and the audience engaging in a spirit of shared enjoyment, but also of learning and education. Oleg Caetani and Kenny chatted easily with the audience, providing insight and knowledge about the period, its composers, and the music.
Kenny is a consummate performer, possessing a radiant presence on the stage. Her two magnificent gowns – the first, a rich red, and the second (nothing less than extraordinary), a flamboyant purple satin with matching feather plumage – perfectly matched the grand gestural quality of the period and its music, evoking visions of a courtly countess at a ball.
Kenny has a fine lyric soprano, with beautifully crisp German pronunciation and diction. However, her open climatic top notes were at times strained and pushed out over the orchestra. The highlight of her performance was Lehár’s ‘How warm is a kiss from my lips’ from Giuditta – Kenny’s lips caressing the musical phrases and the words with romance.
The orchestral program presented the audience with the delightful range of music that may have been played at a Viennese ball. From Karel Komzák II’s The Girls of Baden waltz, to Eduard Strauss’ Carmen Quadrille (a dance piece utilising Bizet’s well-known melodies), and Johann Strauss II’s famous, On the Beautiful Blue Danube. The inclusion of Strauss II’s Perpetual Motion, a set of variations on a theme, passed around individual musicians, emphasised the playfulness invited by the MSO Pops concerts – the piece concluded with Caetani turning to the audience and simply stating, ‘...so on and so forth!’.
Under the direction of Caetani, the MSO brought the vitality of Vienna into the auditorium. The two double bass players in the back row engaged in a dialogue of musical expression – the pleasure of playing plastered on their faces. As they swayed and leaned into the music, creeping up and down their instruments, consumed by the character of each piece, I, too, found myself swaying in my seat – swept up into a dancing dream of the beautiful city, Vienna.
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents
VIENNA, CITY OF MY DREAMS
Conductor Oleg Caetani
Venue: the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall
Dates/Times: Saturday 4 April at 7pm & Sunday 5 April at 2pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster on 1300 136 166 or mso.com.au