Putting Vienna to shame

What turned out to be a magical evening on Saturday started with a friend asking if we would like to go to a charity New Year's concert in the Auditorio de Estepona given by the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra (OFM). With tickets for only 10€ each, our answer was "a no-brainer".

We had not discovered the Felipe VI theatre before, so we were impressed with the building, and even more enamoured with its interior. Unlike many of the venues we had been to in Spain, the auditorium is designed for perfect viewing and listening for every one of its audience. This, combined with the comfort of the near-600 well-spaced and easy-to-locate seats, made it a place I wanted to come back to.

Georg Mark, who studied at the Vienna conservatory, was conducting works by Viennese composers, principally Johann Strauss but also his contemporaries Carl Michael Ziehrer and Richard Heuberger. The performance was going to bear comparison to the televised New Year's Day concert from Vienna.

The overture from Die Fledermaus was followed by a fast Polka by Ziehrer, the lifelong rival of Strauss, then an intermezzo from J.S's operetta A Thousand Nights followed by his Egyptian March, and Donna und Blitzen(thunder and lightning), a very fast polka. The Kaiser-Waltzer and an other polka, Eljen a Magar, brought us to the interval.

The entract was another overture, this time from Heuberger's most famed of operas, Der Openball. The strings had the chance to put down their bows and show their finger prowess by playing the Pizzicato Polka. After more polkas and a waltz, the 'Marcha Española' closed the programme.

But the audience's standing ovation precluded the orchestra getting away without an encore of that most emblematic of waltzes, The Blue Danube, then a chance for audience participation with the almost obligatory Radetzky March, and Maestro Mark conducted the house with much gusto.

This was truly a joyous evening of music-making, putting the somewhat disappointing televised Vienna concert to shame, as they seem to concentrate on the relatively obscure pieces of the Strauss repertoire to the detriment of those that are popular - and there is nothing wrong with popular.