At the Schermerhorn
Salute to Vienna: A New Tradition for Music City’s New Year
On January 3rd at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, Nashville was treated to a glitzy, glamorous, and grand celebration of the New Year–Viennese style. With this concert, Nashville joins an eight decade tradition that began in Vienna and over the last twenty-five years has found its place in cultural centers all across North America, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. The evening featured Conductor/goofball Bernhard Schneider leading the Strauss Symphony of America as well as the National Ballet of Hungary, four International Champion Ballroom Dancers, Viennese soprano Jennifer Davison, and New York tenor Brian Cheney in an event that was both family friendly and fun.
As is appropriate, the program was dominated by waltzes, and polkas, wonderfully imagined by choreographers Marianna Venekei (Ballet) and Csaba László (Ballroom) in which skirts twirled and whooshed. Cheney sang in fine voice, one could tell that the numbers were set comfortably within his glowing, classic instrument and that he has sung these songs before. Indeed, on his Facebook, he estimates that in the last eight years that he has performed in these productions he has sung for around 50,000 people! Davison also sang very well, with a warmth and luxurious instrument that blended well with Cheney’s luster.
Maestro Schneider, between cheesy “Dad-jokes” led the Symphony through decent renditions of the dances; his interpretation of Josef Strauss’ Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb und Lust was delightful and that of Johann Strauss Jr’s Leichtes Blut hellishly fast. The nostalgia in “Hör’ ich Zimbalklänge” was aching, as he invited the audience to hum along with Davison’s song. Perhaps the best part overall was the encore, begun with the Blue Danube Waltz and ended with a sing-along to Burns’ classic “Auld Lang Syne” (with the music printed at the back of the program just in case). Overall, I enjoy the New Year and I like to celebrate it, but I’m not too interested to brave the cold to see a note drop, with Salute to Vienna, the Music City has a new New Year’s tradition.