Monday, December 11, 2017
Stage

Cellist Maximilian Hornung shines as Florida Orchestra celebrates the waltz

TAMPA — There's a point in every Ferris wheel ride, just past the zenith, when the carriage swings out and your stomach lifts and you notice the lights of the town below. That's the feeling I get, at least, from a Strauss waltz, the kind the Florida Orchestra is playing this weekend in "New Year's Waltz."

Though they have a sense of euphoria in common, waltzes are actually a lot more complicated than Ferris wheels. If you didn't fully appreciate that, you will after seeing this arrangement of five composers designed to showcase a range of moods and temperaments as wide as human emotion can run. The concert opened Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, and featured cellist Maximilian Hornung in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra.

On a scale of enjoyments, hearing a superb musician perform live and in complete control of an instrument ranks pretty high. Hornung, a German virtuoso who recently turned 30, is already that musician. His performance, together with inspired responses from the strings and woodwinds, brought out capabilities in the cello Tchaikovsky had in mind when he wrote the piece. Solo sections of the Variations race from slow and elegant to furious; the tempo shifting in Hornung's hands from a familiar waltz rhythm to something eight times as fast, and back. The mood was volatile, like the tension between a couple on the dance floor.

For an encore (there had to be an encore, and the entire orchestra was prepared), he played Victor Herbert's Pulcinello (for solo violoncello & string orchestra).

The program began with Maurice Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, seven contrasting waltzes that propel the evening's theme forward, from gentle to dissonant to hypnotic. After the Tchaikovsky came the Johann Strauss Jr. opus, Wiener Blut, which was used in movie scenes from Titanic depicting first-class passengers. An amazing contrast follows.

Heinz Karl Gruber, a contemporary composer known professionally as HK Gruber, wrote the Charivari as a satirical or even caustic response to a romanticized view of his native Austria. The grandeur of Strauss gives way to a discordant clash, noisy eruptions right down to a percussionist rattling a huge piece of tin to a pace that alternates between polka and waltz. The term "charivari" refers to a custom dating back to the Middle Ages in which townspeople mocked couples they considered illegitimate in one way or another by gathering in front of their houses and rattling pots and pans, a form of public censure. The piece ends with a chilling echo of the Wiener Blut, indicating in the composer's own words that "the uglier facts of history cannot always be glossed over; and except perhaps for the tourist trade, there's nothing to be gained from obsessively harking back to the 'good old days.' "

The concert ended with Richard Strauss' suite from his opera, Der Rosenkavalier. It is the most intellectual of the pieces, and makes a fitting summary of the variations the orchestra had rolled out through the evening.

"When you think about the waltz, it's two people spinning together," music director Michael Francis said in a pre-concert lecture. "Spinning in a circle around the room. Upon an earth that is spinning."

The intent of the New Year's Waltz, he said, is to demonstrate that "the simplest of dance forms can provide a panoply of greatest understanding of human life, and all its joys and foibles."

By that measure alone, the concert is a success, not to mention a stellar performance by Hornung, who evokes rare sounds from one of our most evocative instruments.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

Is Gilbert Gottfried really that annoying in real life?

A new documentary about comedian Gilbert Gottfried reveals someone more mild-mannered than his stage persona, married with children, verging on dull. His voice doesn’t grate, dropping half its nasal quality and all of its foul-mouthed bluster....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Published: 12/10/17
What’s on stage this week: Florida Orchestra happy hour concerts are back, Book of Mormon lottery

What’s on stage this week: Florida Orchestra happy hour concerts are back, Book of Mormon lottery

BACK ON TAP: HAPPY HOUR CONCERTSWith an opening year on the books, it looks like Happy Hour Concerts are here to stay. The Florida Orchestra figured last year it was time to create a user-friendly atmosphere geared to 9-to-5 commuters who could use t...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Live Oak Theatre Company presents Christmas show Dec. 15-16 in Brooksville

Live Oak Theatre Company presents Christmas show Dec. 15-16 in Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — Singing Christmas carols, listening to stories while sitting in front of the fireplace, watching twinkling Christmas lights. For many, these are the feelings that trigger memories of Christmases past.Such memories will be reignited when...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/09/17
Musical take on miserly classic

Musical take on miserly classic

Photo courtesy of Jimmy FerraroThe new Millennium Theatre Company will present a musical production of What in the Dickens Happened To Scrooge? weekends, Dec. 9-17, at 10005 Ridge Road, New Port Richey. Show times are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
How to get $25 tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Straz Center

How to get $25 tickets to ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Straz Center

The Book of Mormon’s producers have made lower-priced tickets possible for a few lucky fans.To win a $25 ticket (that’s less than half of the starting price for seats), it’s safest to show up two and a half hours before curtain. One lottery entry per...
Published: 12/05/17
Orchestra delivers a stirring Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2

Orchestra delivers a stirring Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2

TAMPA — Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a concert. I mean really, you can work yourself to death trying to figure out every nuance, as a critic or music aficionado. I don’t think Sergei Rachmaninoff, who described music as nonverbal po...
Published: 12/02/17
Our music critics wonder, how will Sting mesh with the Florida Orchestra?

Our music critics wonder, how will Sting mesh with the Florida Orchestra?

I was working construction the year Roxanne peaked on the Billboard charts and was playing all the time. With some of the more monotonous jobs, such as grading slabs, the radio is an important part of getting through it. I wasn’t into the Polic...
Published: 11/30/17
You should go see terrific ‘Fun Home’ at the Straz

You should go see terrific ‘Fun Home’ at the Straz

TAMPA The best open house this holiday season runs this week, but it’s not about nostalgia or sentiment. Fun Home tells a true story of the cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s upbringing in a lovingly dysfunctional family. The graphic novel of the same name ...
Published: 11/29/17
What’s hot on stage this week: ‘Avenue Q,’ ‘The Book of Mormon’

What’s hot on stage this week: ‘Avenue Q,’ ‘The Book of Mormon’

IT’S MAIN STREET NOW: AVENUE Q Avenue Q is back at Stageworks. The disarming, Sesame Street-style musical, with actors handling puppets continues to pack ’em in 13 years after taking top honors at the Tony Awards for best musical. The sc...
Published: 11/29/17