Review: The Hallé New Year Viennese Concert, St George’s Hall, Bradford, Sunday 7th January 2024

CONDUCTOR Stephen Bell in his 4th Hallé New Year concert, unpacked a tasty selection of assorted Viennese bonbons for this colourful 2024 edition.

Franz von Suppé's Light Cavalry Overture and the Egyptian March of Johann Strauss - its ‘la-la’ chorus gleefully sung by the orchestra - soon banished any thoughts of the cold grey January weather outside.

Then, straight into the world of Viennese operetta as the Irish soprano Ailish Tynan made her way centre stage. Ailish opened with Franz Lehár’s Meine Lippen sie küssen so Heiss - On My Lips every kiss is like Wine. This is the ‘hit’ from Lehár’s bittersweet 1934 operetta Guiditta, his only one to be premiered at Vienna’s State Opera.

Singer, conductor and orchestra then turned to Adele’s infectious Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus. An opportunity for our vivacious soprano to show off her lustrous upper register with a laser-like climactic top D - a leap of two octaves above middle C. The legato phrasing of Richard Strauss’s serenely beautiful song Morgen (tomorrow) displayed her sumptuous tonal qualities.

Two more operetta gems followed: the delightful Im Chambre Séparée (a private room) from Richard Heuberger’s The Opera Ball and You Shall be the Emperor of my Soul, from Der Favorit by Robert Stolz.

The traditions of a New Year Viennese concert afford a degree of reassurance in these turbulent times, but there is always room for a surprise or two.

Alongside a New Year Galop by Josef Lanner, Johann Strauss’s Tik Tak Polka and his Memories of Covent Garden waltz; Stephen Bell and the Hallé treated an enthusiastic audience to Robert Farnon’s Westminster Waltz and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Straussiana. The acclaimed composer of scores for the silver screen gives Strauss the glossy Hollywood sound.

A delightful programme ended in thoroughly traditional style with the clap-along Radetzky March of Johann Strauss (father). Before that, Ailish Tynan delivered a gleaming and deeply touching rendition of Vilja from Lehár’s The Merry Widow.

We all know what next year’s concert will usher in: Bradford, UK Capital of Culture 2025 no less.