Brighton’s own Philharmonic started an adventurous New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala with a brisk and colourful rendition of the Overture to Die Fledermaus. Warm strings, confident brass with supportive conducting from Barry Wordsworth. The Brighton Philharmonic clearly enjoy playing together and (having many seasoned players in their ranks) have respect but little fear for technical difficulty. A fullish house, I heard a figure mentioned of more than 1320. So the second item, Bahn Frei (“Line clear”) was doubly ironic as Brighton has been marooned from London by Rail Engineering Works since Christmas Eve.
Franz Lehar’s Waltz Gold and Silver, with its lusciously beautiful melody, was the first of no fewer than four full-scale waltzes in the programme; each given sensitive and intelligent performances, no small feat of preparation and commitment. And shining through the Brighton Philharmonic’s performances is a sense of enjoyment in the same way as happens with the best performances of chamber music amongst friends.
Soprano Kiandra Howarth joined for two vocal items, swiftly winning the hearts of the audience both with her committed singing and ravishing red dress.
A rare treat to hear the fearsome Emperor Waltz, it was a fitting finale before the interval; the fine cello solo was warmly applauded.
Barry Wordsworth introduced three British items after the interval. They seemed to be received coolly, in my view because they fitted strangely with this programme of elegance. No problem with the good intentions to include British dance music: surely Teddy Bear’s Picnic (made popular by the British band leader Henry Hall, the composer Henry Bratton was American) would have gone down a treat in this programme, both as a danceable Fox-Trot and as truly British kitsch.
Returning after the British Light Music items, Kiandra Howarth persuaded a slightly cooled audience with her thrilling performance of Strauss Voices of Spring.
Two further waltzes, Roses from the South and – after the traditional antics of the Champagne Polka - the inevitable finale, the ever-beautiful waltz, The Blue Danube.
Warm reception and generous encores: the audience clearly proud of their orchestra. Kiandra Howarth sang a heart rending Oh My Beloved Father to further warm acclaim. The programme finished with Barry Wordsworth conducting the responsive Brighton audience to great effect through various repetitions of the Radetsky March.
Well done Brighton!
New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala
Conductor Barry Wordsworth
Soprano Kiandra Howarth
Johann Strauss II Overture: Die Fledermaus
Eduard Strauss Bahn Frei
Franz Lehar Gold and Silver
Franz Lehar Meine Lippen (Giuditta)
Franz Lehar Eine wird Kommen (Der Zarewitsch)
Johann Strauss II / Josef Strauss Pizzicato Polka
Johann Strauss II Perpetuum Mobile
Johann Strauss II Emperor Waltz
Eric Coates Dance in the Twilight (No.3 from Springtime Suite)
Robert Docker Tabarinage
Fred Hartley Rouge et Noir
Dvorak Song to the Moon (Rusalka)
Johann Strauss II Voices of Spring
Johann Strauss II Egyptian March
Johann Strauss II Roses from the South
Johann Strauss II Champagne Polka
Johann Strauss II The Blue Danube