The 1700s and 1800s were a magical time in Vienna — musically speaking at least. While towns in Italy, Germany and other European countries were packing out the local opera houses, Vienna was relishing the magic that only an orchestra can deliver. Blockbuster personalities of that era like Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss Jr. brought entertainment that the masses just couldn’t get enough of — and Vienna was the place to be.
William Henry Curry, resident conductor of the North Carolina Symphony, has taken a few of his favorites and put together an evening of entertainment called A Night in Old (and New) Vienna, that will be performed by the NC Symphony on Jan. 29 at Reeves Auditorium.
“I chose the selections for this program — and I only select pieces that I am deeply in love with,” said Curry. “I’ve taken some of the lighter classics from the golden age of Viennese music. What is special about this is that the pieces are simple without being simplistic, they are light without going over the edge to triviality.”
The program contains two works by Schubert, who is one of the maestro’s favorites.
“When I am listening to (Schubert) I feel that all is right with the world,” said Curry.
The “Overture” and “Ballet Music No. 9” from Rosamunde opens the concert. Lively and carefree, Rosamunde came about as Schubert was commissioned to write an overture for the play Rosamunde, Furstin von Cypren (Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus) by Wilhelmine von Chezy. Unable to compose a new piece in time for the premier , Schubert borrowed from his Die Zauberharpe (The Magic Harp) a fantasy melodrama, which had been inspired by Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Johann Strauss, Jr. was known as the Waltz King back in his day. Because of his performance schedule he was well traveled and held international celebrity status according to Curry. “Morganblatter, Op 279” (Morning Papers) is the second piece in Curry’s night in Vienna line up.
“While Strauss composed many of his waltzes for dancing, he eventually realized that people just liked to stand and listen to the music,” said Curry. “His music still has the charm and buoyancy of music meant for dancing.”
“Strausianna”, the next composition for the evening, was written by Erich Korngold, the younger son of Julius Korngold, an infl uential 20th century music critic. Born in 1897, Korngold made his mark in the European musical circles, working at a young age as a performer and a composer and even as he served in the Austrian army. By the 1930s Korngold had settled in California and was working as a composer for the fi lm industry, winning two academy awards.
“Straussiana” is made up of Korngold’s versions of three little-known pieces by Johann Strauss, Jr.: “New Pizzicato Polka” from Strauss’ 1893 operetta Furstin Ninetta (Princess Ninetta), where it was used as both a children’s ballet and an intermezzo; the mazurka Bitte Schön! (You’re Welcome!), based on a theme from Cagliostro in Wien (Cagliostro in Vienna) of 1875. It was one of his last works, and is considered one of his most signifi cant as well.
As a musician, Schubert would often write orchestral pieces for amateur musical soirees. It was for one of those events that Symphony No. 5 in B-fl at Major, D. 485 was written. Curry winds up the evening with this sparkling symphony.
“This piece was written for a small orchestra,” said Curry. “It is intimate in scale and does not include the trumpet or drums. It is a true musical gem.”
The concert starts at 8 p.m. Call 919.733.2750 or visit www. ncsymphony.org for more info.