Simple beauty of Strauss

Johann Strauss Gala at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall''Photo by Annabel Moeller
Johann Strauss Gala at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall''Photo by Annabel Moeller

Conductor Rainer Hersch is a man of refreshing honesty who doesn’t care if his evening of Viennese music inspires listeners to enjoy classical music.

The man behind the Johann Strauss Gala at Sheffield City Hall this Saturday said: “I don’t give a monkey’s!

“If they go off and listen to Mozart, fine. It’s not supposed to be educational. It’s entertainment.

“People don’t have to feel it’s somehow a test for them or they’re learning something from it.

“If you learn something from our concert, that’s your own stupid fault, there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Rainer has had a varied career as a conductor, musician, broadcaster and stand-up comedian and is well known for his uniquely funny take on music.

He said: “We’re looking at heroes and villains this year, which is bloody great.

“Every year we work to create a little theme. It’s all centred on the music and we mustn’t be too serious about this.”

Between songs, conductor Rainer will be telling the audience about the goodies and baddies represented by the different tunes.

He said: “We have a new singer and whole new arrangements and concepts of the music. I have to go back to the drawing board at the end of the year.

“Everything gets torn up and you start again and think how are you going to make it different this time?”

Rainer said that the tradition the gala celebrates isn’t just the Strauss family but includes their contemporaries such as Jacques Offenbach and US composer Victor Herbert.

“It’s the same sort of tradition, the light music and operetta tradition, but coming from the US. It provides variety and they’re all variations on the same theme.”

The show, which has entertained audiences for more than 40 years, features the Johann Strauss Orchestra and Dancers in beautiful period costumes.

The orchestra will perform classic interpretations of Strauss masterpieces such as Emperor Waltz, Radetsky March, Bandits’ Gallop,Carmen Quadrille, Polka Furioso and of course the Blue Danube Waltz.

Soprano Samantha Hay will be performing a selection of revered songs from the era, including the Doll Aria from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.

Rainer described the abiding popularity of the music. “It’s great tunes. That’s the bottom line.

“Even if you don’t go to concerts regularly, and for some people it’s the only thing they come to all year, you’ll recognise at least a third of the music even if you’ve never been before.

“You can enjoy it just on the first hearing and a lot of classical music isn’t like that. You have to put a bit of effort in, frankly, to start to prise apart the different ideas, which takes repeated listening.

“It’s not just light and fancy free. There’s lots of beauty in there. Conducting it is hard.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world. You have to experience the grace of it and get that right.”

Box office: at the venue, online or call 0114 278 9789.