The Vienna Philharmonic's annual Sommernachtskonzert or Summer Night Concert, founded in 2004 and held on the quintessentially Viennese grounds of Schönbrunn Castle, has been a roaring success, attracting crowds as large as 100,000. As with the annual New Year's concert, the conductorship rotates. The 2019 conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, has also conducted the New Year's concert. Here he stretches the Gemütlichkeit probably beyond what has been done for either concert, bringing a total of six American works out of the ten played, plus the finale of Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ("From the New World"), to the program. One wonders what the Viennese crowd thought; the applause seems genuine enough, and the two encores, concluding as traditionally with Johann Strauss II's Wiener Blut, Op. 354, are in place. Perhaps Dudamel had an eye to the Vienna concerts' large role in U.S. public television fundraising, but whatever the case, his program is well-shaped. Leonard Bernstein's Candide Overture is an ideal attention-grabbing opening, and the tunes, even for Europeans, are familiar enough, including the Adagio for strings, Op. 11, of Samuel Barber, and the Rhapsody in Blue of Gershwin. The latter is perhaps the prime attraction here, for it features sensation Yuja Wang, who takes her time and draws a good deal of jazzy spectacle out of the score. Wang also appears in the Casablanca Suite of Max Steiner, taken from the famed Humphrey Bogart World War II film. The Vienna Philharmonic betrays a certain sluggishness in the syncopations of the "Hoe-Down" in Copland's Rodeo, but no matter. Unless you were in the mood to hear a lot of Strauss waltzes, this is an unusually strong Sommernachtkonzert. Kudos to Sony for getting a June 20 concert online and on shelves by early August.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony No. 9 in E Minor 'From the New World', Op. 95|