There was wall-to-wall waltzing, or what passes for waltzing in this benighted age, in the Kennedy Center Foyer last night as the clock moved toward midnight. Violinist Alexander Schneider and a septet of friends had been draped in streamers by the Kennedy Center's artistic director, Marta Istomin, as they offered a cheerful selection of waltzes, gallops and landlers, and had champange ready. As the countdown marked the New Year, there were no cheers, just a collective sigh, laughter and a lot of hugging and kissing and then the obligatory "Auld Lang Syne" which, from Schneider and friends, sounded more Viennese than anything else.
A packed house of appetites had been whetted for the revelry by Schneider's traditional New Year's concert that started the evening off on a somewhat higher plane.
There was the lovely Mozart D Major Sonata for two pianos played in a sprightly fashion by Lilian Kallir and Claude Frank. Their reading had more urgency than repose, but under the circmstances, this was probably appropriate.
Schneider, violist Michael Tree, cellist Leslie Parnas, bassist Julius Levine and Frank followed with Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. The audience cheerfully applauded between each movement, conducted, tapped and hummed along with the "Trout" theme of the fourth movement, and, by this time well into the spirit of the evening, enjoyed themselves immensely.
At this point schmaltz took over, divinely, and the evening began its long slide toward midnight as violinists Isadore Cohen and Felix Galimir joined Schneider, Tree and Levine for a marvelously stylized Landler and something that was billed as a waltz by J. Strauss, but sounded like a caricature of ultimately square waltzdom. Schneider rubatoes, portamentoed and tiptoed all over the music and acted as though he was in his element.
At this point the entire audience poured into the foyer to continue the celebration. It was clear immediately that there were not a lot of people around who knew how to waltz, even if there had been room for them to show off, and it was also clear that the under-30 segment of the audience had never been subjected to the ballroom dancing lessons that had been thrust upon their elders. A lot of dance lesssons were given on the spot, and no one got trampled.
It was a great way to greet the New Year.