Fledermaus-Ouvertüre (Johann Strauss)
Process-Polka (Johann Strauss)
Wein,Weib und Gesang! (Johann Strauss)
Ungarischer Tanz (Johannes Brahms)
Libellen Walzer (Johann Strauss)
Mit Extrapost (Eduard Strauss)
Wiener Blut (Johann Strauss)
Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien (Franz v. Suppé)
Furioso-Polka (Johann Strauss)
Persischer Marsch (Johann Strauss)
Marienklänge Walzer (Josef Strauss)
Chineser Galopp (Johann Strauss father)
Czárdás (Johann Strauss)
An der schönen blauen Donau (Johann Strauss)
Radetzky Marsch (Johann Strauss father)
Bertl Mayer (A)
On 1 January 2000, the VAO played for the first time a complete Strauss concert, commissioned by the City of Vienna, in the Viennese concert hall, the Sofiensäle. The Vienna Philharmonic was helpful enough to give us its best-kept secret -- namely, the program -- already the summer before. Only in this way was it possible for the VAO to play exactly the same tunes that the Philharmonic played on that first day of January 2000, in its famous New Year’s matinée. As I looked through the Strauss material, I decided that I should not move too far away from the originals, but rather make new arrangements measure-by-measure, keeping the original forms, in order to stay as close as possible to the character of this unique music. In so doing, I was aware that Strauss already anticipated the qualities that would dominate the light music of the 20th century. In his polkas, for example, you find the kind of rhythm changes that Gershwin used to create a sensation decades afterwards. Another consideration -- which supported the idea of an adaptation for jazz orchestra -- was the historical fact that Strauss had all of his compositions played by chamber ensembles as opposed to symphony orchestras, with the themes presented by soloists rather than sections. I likewise decided to have the themes played by soloists, whereby the usual repetitions would form the basis for improvisations. Naturally, I partook of the many cross-references suggested in the scores and so was able to produce a colorful work which, due to the unusual amplitude of notes and mood changes, nearly brought the musicians to the brink of despair. In any case, we never sweated so much as before the première in the Sofiensäle, where Strauss himself premièred over 70 of his compositions (and we’ve had far more difficult programs to master in the past!). Nevertheless, we surmounted all of the difficulties and realized that theVienna Art Orchestra was virtually predestined to introduce this unique body of Viennese music into the jazz world, despite all of its prejudices against Strauss. Due to popular demand, we have decided to repeat this program annually at Porgy & Bess, adding new pieces every year.
All that Strauss... m.rüegg
Friday May 26 2000
Strauss with a swing
Ronald Atkins on a jazzed-up classic that will have even purists tapping their feet
A compulsive tunesmith, Johann Strauss often scribbled his melodies on a shirt cuff or on any scrap of paper that might come to band, so the idea of arranging them for a jazz band does not seem so far-fetched. And for time and place, where better than Vienna on the first day of the new millennium, at a concert given by the Vienna Art Orchestra a few hours after the Vienna Philharmonic had tackled the pieces in the normal way?
Jazzing the classics used to get pundits in a tizzy. In these crossover years that have also brought more eclectic approaches to improvisation, the difference between adapting a tune and rewriting a symphony has sunk in. One of the great jazz orchestras of today - forward-looking, yet able to shout and swing - the VAO has previously tackled Schubert and Satie. Now comes the turn of the Strauss family: Johann, Josef and Eduard, plus Suppe’s Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna.
The latter receives one of the liveliest treatments, a constantly shifting swirl of Latin rhythms that even includes a tango. Another cracker is Eduard Strauss’s Gruss an Prag with Bumi Fian’s trumpet grandstanding over the top of the ensemble. One of the guest soloists, clarinettist Michel Portal, rips into the Persischer March, in this version a rocking blues that Duke Ellington’s band would have been proud of.
On Josef Strauss’s Marienklänge Waltz, the spotlight moves between Bertl Mayer on harmonica and Andy Scherrer on tenor saxophone as the back-ground moves from impressionistic to aggressive and back again. Another lively Latin background underpins the Albion Polka, on which Alegre Correa backs his guitar lines with amazing scat.
All was arranged by the VAO’s leader and conductor, mathias rüegg. He keeps things expertly on the boil by changing the tempos and rhythms and with scores that push his virtuoso ensemble to the limit, not least on the Blue Danube, the opening bars of which elicit uproarious applause.
for mathias rüegg and his Vienna Art Orchestra
He sits before me
like Thonet bentwood
all black and cream
his body bent into loops, sitting askew
one arm on the back of the chair
absent-mindedly scratching his bald head
above the left ear
for a whole number.
It’s an alternative New Year’s Concert:
The jazz band’s playing a Strauss polka
in samba rhythm
scatted by the Brazilian playing guitar.
Applause: Mr. Bentwood shifts.
A waltz with rainstick and tympani.
Chimes picked up and repeated
by the oversized chandeliers.
A straight jazz waltz, with modern dance accompaniment.
Bentwood squirms, visibly restless
then slowly settles down.
A third waltz with tango overtones.
He sits S-curved to the left,
scratching with three intent fingers
the line where his remaining hair
meets clean skin.
Strauss turns insistent, driven by the sax.
Bentwood straightens up
and spends a whole number without scratching.
The harmonica takes over
and he slumps again,
to the left this time, crosses his knees
lifts the upper one to support his elbow
on scratching his forehead, above the temple.
An attitude of pensiveness.
He turns his head away from the stage
and studies the lanky figure
of the maestro in tails
who has receded into the shadows
and stands, swigging water right from the bottle.
The Blue Danube, heavy on brass.
Bentwood shifts his S-curve to the right
blocking my window of sight.
But the violin still comes cleanly through
bending stretching scratching the waltz
turning it into Thonet
all black and cream.
by Karin Kaminker