Vienna Philharmonic's Summer Night Concert

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just as New Yorkers flock to outdoor concerts in the city's parks each summer, the Viennese have a growing tradition of their own: a free open-air performance at the Schönbrunn Palace, a former imperial summer residence known for its Baroque gardens. In June, the Vienna Philharmonic presented its eighth annual al fresco concert there, featuring an unusual, celestial-themed program. It's just out on CD and is this week’s Full Rotation.

The "Summer Night Concert" is somewhat of a hybrid. On one hand, it features the Vienna Philharmonic, the 168-year-old ensemble that connotes prestige and a staunchly traditional aesthetic (its hiring practices towards women musicians remain a point of contention). Yet this is also an event that draws an estimated 100,000 people, including, we're told, many newcomers who normally don't venture into Vienna's hallowed Musikverein.

Then there’s the program. This concert was the first time that the Vienna Philharmonic had played the music of John Williams, the most recognizable film composer of the modern era. Three selections from Star Wars are included, and while they may not rival the classic London Symphony Orchestra accounts, conductor Franz Welser-Möst emphasizes the music’s bold strokes and the Vienna brass give it their all.

Other selections offer a more varied take on the cosmic theme. There are several nods to the Viennese waltz tradition including Music of the Spheres, a moody, atmospheric piece by Josef Strauss (the second son of Johann Strauss); and Joseph Lanner's Evening Stars, a bubbly waltz receiving its first Vienna Phil recording. The orchestra applies a delicate touch to the magical Moonrise chorus from Otto Nicolai's opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor but is suitably brash and menacing in Mars from Gustav Holst's The Planets. The one "terrestrial" selection here is Franz Liszt's Second Piano Concerto, which while breaking theme, is given a bravura performance by the Russian soloist Yefim Bronfman.

Summer Night Concert 2010
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

The Musik Verein IS the better of the 2 locations to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the other the now 8th annual al fresco concert at the Schoenbrunn Palace held last June. But, remember the orchestra nominally known as the VPO, or Wiener Philharmoniker, is the SAME orchestra that performs for the Vienna State Opera, Wiener Staatsoper. The Opera House has good acoustics, but the Musik Verein is better, has a deeper richer resonance.

Aug. 19 2010 01:04 PM
Raymond from West Palm Beach

I have to admit I don't fully understand the rationale behind Full Rotation: Featured Album of the Week offerings. Who wants to read an alluring article about a mellifluous album only to have no direct way to listen to or sample it? I'd like to ask you to consider adding a listen feature in with the recommendation each week. I think that would make the whole affair much more satisfying. In fairness to you, I just noticed I can google it and listen on Amazon.com. Still, that's probably one step too many on a weekly basis.

Thanks for your consideration.

Aug. 18 2010 06:02 AM

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