The concert of music by the Strausses of Vienna played by a marvelous modest-sized orchestra Saturday evening at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was, in its way, an unassuming affair. That was one of the numerous charms.
It was a group called the Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra, founded in 1966 by Eduard Strauss, the Waltz King's grand nephew, and dedicated to satisfying the understandably insatiable appetite that sane listeners have for waltzes, polkas and marches by the Strauss family.
The group's goal is not to make this precious lode of beguiling 19th-century lyricism dazzling, an approach that usually backfires.
Strauss needs to flow -- and that is what happened Saturday night. It is not so much a question of precision as it is of the ease in the inflections, and of keeping it within a reasonably intimate dynamic scale. In the latter aspect, an orchestra of 42 like this one has a built-in advantage over even so mellifluous a Strauss ensemble as the Vienna Philharmonic.
In the manner in which the Strauss orchestra does this repertory, it verges on chamber music -- to the point that conductor Kurt Wo ss could indulge in all kinds of extramusical antics. At one point he wandered off stage right only to emerge a minute later through the door of stage left.
Other comic moments included the flashing on and off of the Concert Hall lights for the "Thunder and Lightning" Polka, during which a violinist provided the conductor with an umbrella. Hokey? Not really, in this period, potted-palm context (there really were potted palms spaced around the back of the stage).
The high point: probably the waltz "Wo die Zitronen blu h'n."
It was not a brilliant concert, but an enormously satisfying one -- which in Strauss is what matters the most.