Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
IF the arithmetic is permitted to include the live broadcast from Vienna on the morning of New Year’s Day, the RSNO’S touring Viennese Gala concert brought my total of those festive concerts to the same as my Messiahs this season. And like the three performances of Handel’s masterwork, they proved how different the same thing can be.
Beyond the Blue Danube, conductor Stephen Bell’s programme was less about exploring dance music, as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra had done, and more about the theatre of the thing. That was entirely appropriate for this date in particular, with the symphony orchestra – albeit a relatively compact edition of the RSNO – shoehorned on to the proscenium arch stage and Bell and soprano Ailish Tynan having no option but to make their entrances and exits through an auditorium door rather than the wings.
Both were perfectly chosen for the occasion, the Irish singer in her element on the operetta repertoire, expressive and with both perfect control and enormous charm. As he has often shown with the BBC SSO at Proms in the Park, Bell has huge respect for light music, and delivers it in an informative and, given the opportunity, amusing style - his comic timing more than compensating the familiarity of his jokes.
Besides the Strauss family, Franz Lehar was the featured composer here with the Gold And Silver Waltz, which closed the first half, and the Overture to The Land Of Smiles instrumental highlights and Tynan’s performance of Vilja Lied from The Merry
Widow inevitably the standout of her selections.
There were some fine less wellknown inclusions as well. Emile Waldteufel’s Student Waltz sounds so quintessentially Viennese no-one would have known otherwise had
Bell not said, while the Romanze No 1 was entirely uncharacteristic Johann Strauss II, and one of a number of features for first cello Betsy Taylor.
Considering that many of the musicians had only just returned from a demanding tour in China, the vivacity they brought to this music – which is essential to its success
– was a real achievement.
Soprano Ailish Tynan had to make entrance through a door.