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Waltzing in the New Year in Ellicott City

The Baroque design of the Belvedere historic building complex is an iconic Viennese site, as recognizable as the waltzes on the program of "Viennese New Year Celebration" Jan. 10 in Ellicott City.
The Baroque design of the Belvedere historic building complex is an iconic Viennese site, as recognizable as the waltzes on the program of "Viennese New Year Celebration" Jan. 10 in Ellicott City. (Don DeGeorge)

The Howard County Concert Orchestra plays a classically festive welcome to 2016 with its "Viennese New Year Celebration" on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City.

"Vienna is associated with the highest degree of the charm and elegance of Central Europe," said the orchestra's music director, Ronald Mutchnik.

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"We're always hoping the New Year will be better than the previous year," he added, noting that "you can't do better than this music" to put an audience in a cheerful mood.

Although the music comes from Central Europe, it's also very much a local event. For four of the musical selections, the Howard County Concert Orchestra will be accompanied by Howard County Ballet dancers wearing period-appropriate costumes.

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The program is hosted by Jonathan Palevsky, the program director at Baltimore classical music radio station WBJC-FM.

And after enjoying the concert itself, audience members will partake of Viennese pastries at a post-concert reception.

Any Viennese-themed New Year's concert will contain waltzes composed by Johann Strauss Jr., of course, and the upcoming program has its share. Considering that the Howard County Concert Orchestra did similar programs in 2011 and 2012, it's primed to savor the Strauss waltzes again.

Other January concerts performed by the Howard County Concert Orchestra in recent years featured music from places such as Norway and Spain.

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Mutchnik now feels it's time to revisit the music of Vienna. Indeed, it was a trip he made there that convinced him that the concert greeting 2016 would have a Viennese theme.

"I took a trip to Vienna last year, and also went to Budapest and Prague. It was a fascinating experience. I feel closer to the music and want to share it," he said.

Mutchnik's trip included a cruise on the Danube, and so he certainly did his homework for playing the famous "Blue Danube" waltz.

A notable distinction between the upcoming Viennese New Year's concert and similar concerts in the past is that it ventures out from Vienna and into nearby musical territory. There will be waltzes by German composer Johannes Brahms and also waltzes by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.

Other selections include waltzes by Joseph Lanner to indicate what that style sounded like in the early- to mid-19th century period just before Strauss came along; and some violin music by Fritz Kreisler to further underscore the beautiful music that filled the Central European air.

By way of visual reinforcement for the music, the program includes video footage shot by Mutchnik in Vienna, Budapest and Prague. For this concert, the music director will double as a film director.

Howard County Concert Orchestra performs a "Viennese New Year Celebration" on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3604 Chatham Road, in Ellicott City. Tickets are $25, $12 for students 18-24, free for those 17 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. Call 410-461-7793 or go to hococo.org

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