Vienna conjures up romantic images of the waltzes of Johann Strauss II and the melodies of Mozart. Paying tribute to the Austrian classical music mecca and to Valentine’s Day, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is presenting a program of Viennese-inspired works this weekend.

Headlining the program, titled “Visions of Vienna & Salzburg,” Thursday night at the Orpheum Theater and Friday night in Covington will be guest soloist Orion Weiss performing Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in D-minor.”

Also on the program are a Johann Strauss waltz, “Where the Citrons (Lemons) Bloom”; Richard Strauss’ suite from his opera, “Der Rosenkavalier”; and Missy Mazzoli’s 2014 composition, “Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres).”

Making his New Orleans debut as guest conductor will be Francesco Lecce-Chong, musical director and conductor for the symphonies of Eugene, Oregon, and Santa Rosa, California.

Lecce-Chong is especially excited about the second half of the program, which includes "Rosenkavalier."

"What makes the piece so incredible is that it’s a comedy that’s able to poke fun at the aristocracy in Vienna at the time," the conductor said. "(Richard Strauss) criticizes it but, at the same time, he also accepts the beauty of it and all of that comes through in the opera itself.

“And so, what I was thinking was, wouldn’t it be nice to actually have a piece that was from the golden age of Vienna?” Lecce-Chong said. “’Where the Lemon Trees Bloom’ is by far my favorite (Johann) Strauss waltz ... People can really get a sense for the beauty and the grace of the Viennese waltz from it.”

Missy Mazzoli is one of the most important American composers working today, Lecce-Chong believes. "('Sinfonia') fits very well into the program because, as modern as it is, there is a gracefulness to it and a richness in the sonority that I think will help it blend in really well and heighten the experience.”

Finally, the conductor wanted to make sure Mozart was represented in the first half.

"(Richard) Strauss really loved Mozart and loved conducting his music, and there is a beautiful connection between those two composers," he said.

Weiss, a prodigy who grew up in the Cleveland area and later studied at the Juilliard School under Emmanuel Ax, will be making his debut with the LPO, his second performance in New Orleans.  

“He is an incredible pianist, just beautiful, with so much finesse," Lecce-Chong said.

The pianist's skills will be on full display, especially in the 30-minute Mozart concerto.

“Mozart is the hardest one to play, for sure," Weiss said. "He only wrote two (of his 27) concertos in minor keys, and there’s more storm and drama to those two than most of the others. This one definitely has a wide dramatic range — a turbulence and storminess — but it also finds pure moments of joy and brightness.” 


Visions of Vienna & Salzburg

WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 14, Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans and 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, First Baptist Church, 16333 LA-1085, Covington

TICKETS: $20-$140 New Orleans; $20-$55 Covington

INFO: (504) 523-6530.