Camerata’s Viennese Night

Overheard prior to the Manchester Camerata’s New Year concert at the Kendal Leisure Centre: “I wouldn’t care if I never heard another note of Strauss or Korngold”. Odd, to say the least! Why spend good money to attend a concert at which, clearly, the Strauss family was going to be strongly represented and possibly Korngold, too?

The Manchester Camerata is internationally famed for its work in generally extending the boundaries of classical music. For this concert, however, the evening’s conductor, Christian Kluxen, had assembled an attractive array of waltzes, polkas, gallops, operetta overtures and arias by the Strausses, Lehár, Korngold et al., and pieces of greater substance by Brahms and Sibelius that demonstrated how much at home the orchestra is in presenting 19th-century music of a colourful, tuneful and lighter nature.

As he remarked during the pre-concert talk, a concert like this should ideally be a ‘fun concert’. He also discussed the difficulties encountered in performing a programme of 15 short/shortish pieces, covering a wide range of styles and moods, after a limited amount of rehearsal time. Such difficulties were, to the casual ear, largely disguised: the vast multitude of tempi changes, the rapid successions of dynamic contrasts, the extensive range of tonal colours – these features and more were presented to the highly-appreciative audience with outstanding aplomb and musicianship of the highest quality.

The soprano, Sarah Redgwick, glamorous in three changes of gown, provided the vocal contrast to the evening. During five of operetta’s most loved and mellifluous arias she brought beauty of tone, real dramatic presence and command of characterisation; she forged a fine partnership with her orchestral colleagues who, except in the most passionate of climaxes, allowed her to make her presence felt.

The programme ended with Strauss’s Radetzky March. Here, the audience with enthusiastic, virtuosic hand-clapping, and monitored with consummate humour and skill by Christian Kluxen, further extended the evening’s enjoyment. A ‘fun concert’ indeed!

Brian Paynes