BPO – New Year’s Eve Viennese Classics – Rebecca Bottone (soprano), Stephen Bell (conductor)

Stephen Bell is a flawless showman. He gave the audience all the entertainment they came for – but not everything was over-familiar. His cunning programme was spiked with some delightful but unfamiliar jewels from the Viennese concert halls. As he wryly put it: “Every day’s a school day”, and he was both the jolly teacher and class prankster.

His accomplice was the bright-voiced Rebecca Bottone. Her first song was Lehár’s ‘Vilja’; a straightforward version until the end when she soared into the stratosphere, a promise of things to come. The ‘Thunder & Lightning Polka’ and Josef Strauss’ ‘Fireproof Polka’, with its untuned metal clangs, fixed our ears on the higher frequencies and prepared us for the lark-inspired coloratura soprano of ‘Voices of Spring’ which was well worthy of our rapt attention. Later, of course, we needed bat’s ears to catch her top notes in the ‘Audition Aria’ from Die Fledermaus.

The orchestra too could dish out surprises: gun shots, brass-band bellowing and errant bird song. They could also play quietly, even silently, in the ever-popular ‘Pizzicato Polka’. Maestro Bell may have tried to catch them out in that one as his grand pause was ever so long!

By the time we came to the finale, ‘The Blue Danube’ waltz, I just relaxed into those wonderful, seasonally-familiar tunes and got ready for five minutes of enthusiastic applause, followed up by even more clapping with that inevitable ‘Radetzky March’.

Christmas cracker jokes, the imaginary swish of satin and egret plumes, a melodious atmosphere of goodwill, these all made a most agreeable way to welcome the New Year.

Dome Concert Hall
31 December 2021
Rating: ★★★★★
Andrew Connal

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