CONTRARY to TS Eliot's famous pronouncement, the "cruellest month" is in fact January.

It's cold, dark and wet most of the time, everyone's skint and exhausted after the punishing excesses of Christmas/Hogmanay, and there's generally some nasty virus doing the rounds. Be thankful then the RSNO is on hand to cheer us up with their annual Viennese New Year extravaganza, showcasing a generous selection of cast-iron favourites guaranteed to raise the spirits.

The music of Johann Strauss II featured heavily, of course, opening proceedings with the Overture to Die Fledermaus and bringing them to a close, inevitably, with On The Beautiful Blue Danube. In between were plenty of other perennials broadly appropriate to the Viennese theme, exceptions being the overly trite Blue Tango by Leroy Anderson, and Bach's Air On A G String, which suffered in the bone-dry acoustic.

Loading article content

Conductor/compere James Clark acquitted himself gamely enough, even if there were times (aside from the deliberate tomfoolery of the Pizzicato Polka) when he didn't quite manage to unify the musicians. Solo soprano Elin Pritchard sashayed through her Strauss and Lehar offerings with plenty of winsome vivacity, despite occasional lapses in cohesion between her and the ensemble. The orchestra generally worked hard to inject the necessary zest into such familiar repertoire, although (perhaps due to some residual jet-lag from their recent tour to China), energy levels seemed to flag a little as the evening wore on.

This said, the enthusiastic response from a packed Carnegie Hall would certainly suggest the RSNO had succeeded in dispelling the January blues.