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Strauss Symphony of America

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What is New Year's without the waltz? Throughout Europe, the entire holiday season seems to sway in 3/4 time--especially in Vienna, where the Strausses raised the genre to its artistic and popular zenith in the late 1800s--and the tradition is now being imported here on a massive scale. Building on the success of his previous holiday concerts, Toronto impresario Attila Glatz is presenting "Salute to Vienna" concerts in 33 North American cities over the course of a single week (including 14 performances on New Year's Day). In Chicago his pickup ensemble is the top-notch Symphony II (renamed the Strauss Symphony of America for this event only), composed mainly of musicians from the Lyric Opera Orchestra. It knows its waltzes lilt for lilt, having performed them in Die Fledermaus and operas by Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss. The conductor is Klaus Arp, a musical polymath with Viennese roots; like most of the conductors hired for these concerts, he has the central-European knack for making schmaltz sound like the height of sophistication. Besides the Strauss perennials--"On the Beautiful Blue Danube," of course, and the "Radetzky March," which close out the celebrated New Year's concert in Vienna--the program features less familiar waltzes, polkas, and marches, including excerpts from The Gypsy Baron, The Merry Widow, and other operettas. Polish coloratura Katarzyna Dondalska and Austrian tenor Thomas Sigwald, both operetta veterans, are the headliners; they'll be joined by a chorus for most of their songs. And dancers from the Ballet Chicago Studio Company will demonstrate the blend of decorum and suggestiveness that's the essence of waltz. Sunday, December 29, 2:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 888-294-3550 or 312-294-3000.

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