Review: The Hallé , Viennese New Year Concert, St George’s Hall Bradford, Sunday 8th January 2023

A DELECTABLE afternoon’s selection of Viennese lollipops, plus a few novelties, fleshed out this New Year celebration programme. The Hallé, was conducted by Stephen Bell who also delivered the concise and witty introductions.

Proceedings opened with a fizzing performance of the Overture to Die Fledermaus (The Bat), Johann Strauss the Younger’s most celebrated operetta. Adele’s Laughing Song is probably the best known number and was sung with gay abandon by soprano Rebecca Bottone. Conductor and orchestra then turned to Franz Lehár’s Gold and Silver Waltz, a perennial favourite of Sir John Barbirolli, beloved Hallé chief conductor from 1943-70.

This segued into the soprano aria Love Live Forever from Lehár’s Paganini, composed twenty years after The Merry Widow. Rebecca Bottone then sang in German the rarely heard soprano line in two wonderful waltzes by Josef Strauss: Village Swallows, and Music of the Spheres. The first time that many will have heard these two waltzes complete with their coloratura embellishments.

Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Overture Di Ballo, composed 1870, opened the second half. This brilliant orchestral piece incorporates three popular dances of the era - a polonaise or ‘walking’ dance, a whirling waltz and a galop - a novel and welcome inclusion in this New Year Concert. Lehár’s Overture to The Land of Smiles provided a nostalgic reminder of a once popular operetta in the exotic setting of imperial China. The Persian March of Johann Strauss younger treated the audience to a pastiche of exotic eastern sound effects.

Two more Lehár gems completed Rebecca Bottone’s set - Vilja from the Merry Widow and My Lips give such hot kisses, from Giuditta, his final operetta. Both were projected with a certain vivacious charm.

The second waltz sequence from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss condensed into ten minutes or so the bittersweet flavour of a work sometimes described as ‘grand operetta’. The Johann Strauss family did not have a monopoly on hauntingly memorable waltz tunes. They did however end a thoroughly enjoyable occasion in rousing traditional style with Johann’s opulent Emperor Waltz and the Radetzky March of Johann’s Father.