All-star aggregations are not reserved solely for the sports world. The newly formed Wiener Strausscapelle, which comprises 22 musicians from Vienna's finest orchestras plus soloists from the Vienna Volksoper, is just such a group. But, unlike many all-star sporting events, where individual heroics replace teamwork, the Strausscapelle's concert at the Kennedy Center last night was a model of polished ensemble playing.
The musicians' mission is noble, for they have dedicated themselves to the Strauss Family and its musical heirs, adhering to the performance practices of the 19th century. In the wrong hands, these timeless waltzes and operettas can come off as frothy, lightweight confections. Conductor Heinz Lambrecht's assertive, yet delicate handling of the instrumentalists instilled a sense of gravity, without destroying any of the music's inherent charm.
With such familiar pieces as Johann Strauss' "Voices of Spring Waltz," "The Blue Danube Waltz" and "Wiener Blut," the air of nostalgia was unmistakable. Baritone Harald Serafin, who carried off the Lehar and Sieczynski numbers with verve and aplomb, doubled as emcee, inspiring tenor Josef Kovacs and soprano Piroska Varga into exultant waltzing during breaks in the Kalman and Strauss trios.
"We did not get to the moon, but we gave the world the waltzes," Serafin exclaimed at one point in the program. As musical ambassadors, the Wiener Strausscapelle seem quite capable of winning over any modern audience.