Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra opens 36th season Oct. 6 with 'A Night in Old Vienna'

The Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra opens its 36th season with "A Night in Old Vienna," a performance planned for Saturday, Oct. 6, at Bel Air High School

As Sheldon Bair, music director and founder of the orchestra, explained, Vienna in the 19th Century was the world capital of music, and even German composers like Beethoven and Brahms were drawn to the homeland of Johann Strauss Sr. and Jr. Today, Strauss Jr., Beethoven and Brahms rest in the same area of Vienna's Central Cemetery.

Maestro Bair commented on the inspiration for the Vienna theme: "For my son Zach's high school graduation present, we visited Vienna last June, and I decided it might be a good thing to continue that trip to old Vienna right here in Maryland in October." He went on to say that Zachary, who plays the string bass, graduated from Bel Air High School and is studying music at Harford Community College.

Sheldon Bair has another close tie with Vienna, having studied conducting there with Witold Rowicki.

"A Night in Old Vienna" begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Bel Air High School auditorium at 100 Heighe St. An informative lecture at 6:30 p.m. precedes the concert. Tickets for the four-concert season ($75 for adults, $55 for seniors and $40 for students with I.D.) are available on-line at, by mail at SSO, P.O. Box 963, Abingdon, MD 21009, or at the first concert. Single tickets ($20, $15 and $10) are available by mail, at the door, or at Preston's Stationery, MusicLand, Harford Pharmacy and Music & Arts in Bel Air.

The concert begins with Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, "Pastorale."

"Beethoven often spent his summers in Heiligenstadt, in the Vienna suburbs, walking the paths by the streams and composing," Bair said, adding, "This is where he got the idea for his 6th Symphony, the Pastorale, with its movements about a walk in the country, by the brook, peasant dance, storm, and thanksgiving at the harvest."

Also on the program is Brahms' Tragic Overture, Op. 81, which Bair describes as "more heroic than tragic." He noted that Brahms and Johann Strauss Jr. were good friends and often played cards together. In that era, both Strausses - father and son - were immensely popular dance orchestra leaders, popularizing the waltz and the operetta.

Therefore, no concert about Old Vienna would be complete without a waltz by Johann Strauss Jr. The lilting Du und Du Waltz from his operetta "Die Fledermaus" is sure to delight. The concert ends with a longtime Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra favorite, The Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Sr.

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