• Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala, The Dome, Brighton, December 31, 2018.
The delighted audience at Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s heart-warming New Year concert must have been glad Ilona Domnich swapped piano for a career as a singer, writes Phil Dennett.
Domnich’s sometimes delicate, often dynamic and always delightful lyric coloratura soprano sprinkled magic over the highly-entertaining New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala at the Dome.
With charm and poise, Domnich widened the horizons beyond Austria with songs like Ivor Novello’s Waltz of My Heart.
Many of the tunes in this concert were popular among radio listeners in the 1950s and early 1960s and for some of the older people in the audience it must have sounded like listening to the old Light Programme.
Tunes such as Unter Donner und Blitz Polka, the Lehar Gold and Silver Waltz and the opening Overture to Die Fledermaus jogged a few distant memories and were immaculately performed by the musicians.
The inclusion of some English pieces proved a huge success, with the chiming Westminster Waltz and cascading strings of Charmaine utterly charming.
Domnich wasted no opportunity to display her considerable vocal agility in Lehar’s classic aria Meine Lippen, with its drama and high notes leaping towards the Heavens.
The up-tempo Laughing Song was perfect showing off material for pitch-perfect “ha-ha-ha” notes while the longing of the Oscar Straus song My Hero, was captured in a piece which could have exposed any vocal weakness.
None of Domnich’s power was delivered at the expense of tone, which remained controlled wherever the melody roamed. All this and a stunning encore too.
Conductor Richard Balcombe kept a light hand on the tiller but also coaxed urgency from pieces like Czardas with Domnich showing a touch of gypsy fireside. A hushed section of the Gold and Silver Waltz showed typically good control of the orchestra’s dynamics, which only rarely threatened the soloist.
Amidst all the inspiring quality principal cellist Peter Adams delivered an immaculate and soulful solo in Von Suppe’s Morning, Noon and Night In Vienna. This captivating concert, without a dud moment, was a great way to beckon in 2019 and the appreciative audience let the musicians know it.