Festival orchestrates live music, food and dancing

Will Conley

Brats and classical music melded this weekend as Orchestra Hall hosts its 20th annual “Viennese Sommerfest” this month.
In an effort to create a festive atmosphere reminiscent of Vienna, Peavey Plaza — located next to the Hall on Nicollet Mall and 11th Street South — was converted into the Marktplatz, complete with hundreds of tables and about a dozen food service tents. Brats, corn-on-the-cob, fruit kabobs and various refreshments filled visitors’ stomachs as they enjoyed free, live music on the Marktplatz stage during the day.
Sommerfest, pronounced “Zoe-mur-fest,” which opened July 7 and will run until July 31, also includes five weekly indoor concerts by the Minnesota Orchestra. Each concert features a unique music repertoire including pieces from the 18th and 19th century, as well as contemporary composers.
The Marktplatz music tends to have a light feel, whether it is a jazz ensemble, a brass quintet or a string quartet, and usually invites people to dance.
The first night of Sommerfest was a waltz extravaganza as the pool on Peavey Plaza was drained to provide a dance floor for the estimated 2,000 people in attendance, a typical number for a busy night.
The festival attracts all kinds of people, whether they are college and University students, families, couples on a first date or individuals enjoying the music.
“I enjoy working Sommerfest,” said Jason Matt, a sophomore student at Indiana University and a beverage server. “Free live music, happy people — I like it.”
Gov. Jesse Ventura even made an appearance on the Marktplatz Friday morning when he held his weekly radio show, “Lunch with the Governor.”
Saturday saw the month’s biggest show thus far as the Orchestra performed Mozart’s 20th piano concerto and Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony,” a raucous, seventy-minute tone poem about the Alps which incorporates an extra-full orchestra including 10 French horns and two tubas.
The rest of the month will see performances of pieces by Bach, Strauss, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Hindemith, and Tchaikovsky, Vaughn Williams and others, including a “piano spectacular,” a concert featuring four pianists.
Keeping in the spirit of Sommerfest’s experimental focus, the world premier of Kernis’ “Concerto de Dance Hits,” a three-movement piece for guitar and string orchestra, will take place July 14-15.
The festival will end with the Orchestra performance of “Ariadne auf Naxos,” a comedic opera composed by Richard Strauss.