Arts & Events

Salute to Vienna at Davies Symphony Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:19:00 PM

New to me, though now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Salute to Vienna came to Davies Symphony Hall on Monday evening, December 30, to present a concert of music and dance in homage to the city of Vienna. Drawing its inspiration in part from the famed Neujahrskonzert 

given each January 1 at Vienna’s Musikverein by the Vienna Philharmonic, a concert seen worldwide on television, Salute to Vienna offers lots of waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. and others, plus excerpts from Viennese operettas. Touring 18 cities in the USA throughout December, not to mention concerts in Canada, Salute to Vienna spreads its Viennese gemütlichkeit over a large canvas. In San Francisco, the orchestra was the Strauss Symphony of America, a musical 

organization based in New York State. Its conductor for the Davies Hall concert was Balázs Bánfi from Budapest. Singers were soprano Patricia Nessy from Vienna and tenor David Danholt from Copenhagen. Ballet dancers from Europaballett of St. Pölten, Austria, performed to several of the instrumental pieces, and International Champion Ballroom dancers from Hungary waltzed to both vocal and instrumental pieces.  

The concert got under way with the Overture to Gypsy Baron by Johann Strauss, Jr. Next up were “Frülingsstimmen” Waltzes, Op. 410, by Johann Strauss, Jr. These were sung by 

soprano Patricia Nessy, who negotiated the difficult coloratura passages with aplomb. (In an aside, I note that never before hearing this music live did I realise how close some coloratura 

passages resemble yodelling.) Following this came the Dorfschwalben aus Österreich Waltzes by Josef Strauss, the brother of Johann Strauss, Jr. This music was accompanied by dancers from Europaballett. Next, conductor Balázs Bánfi introduced tenor David Danholt from Copenhagen. A Heldentenor, David Danholt has won many awards, including first prize in the International Wagner Competition in Seattle. Here in San Francisco, David Danholt’s first contribution to the program was an aria from Franz Lehár’s operetta Giudita. In this aria, David Danholt’s robust tenor easily made itself heard over many fortissimo passages in the orchestra. Following this came an instrumental piece, Florentiner March by Julius Fučik, which offered multiple trombone smears. The next piece, the Wiener Blut Waltzes , Op. 354, by Johann Strauss, Jr., offered what to my mind was the highlight of the first half of the concert. Accompanied by graceful ballroom dancers, the sweetly lyrical Wiener Blut Waltzes resounded beautifully in Davies Hall. Next came a vocal duet with Patricia Nessy and David Danholt singing a lovers’ spat to music by Emmerich Kálmán from Die Csárdásfürstin/The Gypsy Princess, an operetta I saw at Vienna’’s Volksoper in 2001. This piece began with a lovely cello solo. To close out the first half of this concert, 

Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214, was performed accompanied by ballet dancers.  

Opening the second half of this concert was a famous, one might even say, notorious, piece by Jacques Offenbach, the Overture (“Can-Can”) from Orpheus in the Underworld. Though not by a Viennese composer, this operetta by Jacques Offenbach was a great hit in Vienna. Next came a tenor aria from David Danholt, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” from Land of Smiles by Franz Lehár. In this aria, David Danholt demonstrated an impressive ability to handle frequent shifts of dynamics, ending with a booming fortissimo climax. Another work by Franz Lehár followed, the Gold and Silver Waltzes, op. 79, accompanied by ballet dancers. Turning to comedy, the next piece was “Schwipslied” or “Tipsy Song” from A Night in Venice by Johann Strauss, Jr. Sung in character by Patricia Nessy, who carried a bottle of champagne in one hand and a wineglass in the other, this drunken aria was filled with infectious laughter and even a burp or two. As a 

musical rendering of inebriation, this was a delightful hoot. Next came the Process Polka, Op. 294, by Johann Strauss, Jr., followed by another highlight of the concert, the song “Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume”/ “Vienna, city of my dreams,” by Rudolf Sieczyński. This song, which was famously recorded by the great tenor Richard Tauber, was sung here as a duet by David Danholt and Patricia Nessy. Closing out he scheduled part of the program was “Leichtes Blut Polka by Johann Strauss, Jr.  

By way of encores, the ensemble performed the famous Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr., then an aria from Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus, followed by an audience sing-along of “Auld Lang Syne,” and, finally, an audience clap-along to the Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr.