Utah Symphony’s tribute to Richard Strauss continues this evening with three pieces, all highlighting the talents of Utah Symphony’s own musicians. Presented as part of the O.C. Tanner Company Masterworks Series, the program featuring two of Strauss’ most popular tone poems and his Serenade for Winds with masterful storytelling through the voice of instrumental music.
Serenade for Winds
The performance opens with Strauss’ Serenade in E-flat Major, scored for nine woodwind instruments and four horns in a small orchestra setting. Produced by Strauss at just 17 years old, Serenade is both lyrical and entertaining and foreshadows the powerful storytelling elements Strauss would later come to master in his 20s and 30s. The single movement is composed in traditional sonata form and delivered charm and vivacity from the double wind pairs of the Utah Symphony.
Utah Symphony’s Don Quixote opens with an absolutely packed concert stage at Abravanel Hall. The story follows that of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha and Strauss geniously assigned instruments to represent various characters in the story. Don Quixote is played by a humanly resonate voice of a solo cello (Utah Symphony’s principal cello Rainer Eudeikis) with layered support from Concertmaster violin Madeline Adkins, the unattainable Dulcinea is portrayed by an oboe and Don Quixote’s sidekick Sancho Panza by solo viola (principal viola Brant Bayless) with bass clarinet and tuba for whimsy and humor.
Given the audience’s literary understanding of the story of Don Quixote on opening night, Strauss’ wordless musical narratives needed little translation—although a short synopsis is displayed above the stage for attendees to follow.
In this fanciful, dare we say delusional story, we follow Don Quixote’s life over 40 minutes and ten variations. The first knightly adventure encountered are the windmills mistaken for giants (Variation I), followed by an army of sheep (Variation II) and a gang of kidnappers (Variation IV)—all filled with humor and folly and eventually defeat. In the finale, Don Quixote dies with dignity.
To learn more about the complex composition of Strauss’ Don Quixote from the main characters enjoy the video below.
Also sprach Zarathustra
The performance concludes with Also sprach Zarathustra, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name. Considered Strauss’ most literary work, it is also most famous for the opening “Sunrise” movement that audiences will immediately recognize from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumpet fanfare, booming timpani, brass notes and spirited musical thunder are sure to leave audiences breathless as they settle into the remaining eight movements following “Sunrise.” Attendees would be wise to keep their eyes on Adkins and Bayless (to the left and right of conductor Thierry Fischer) who once again coax ethereal music from their strings throughout the performance.
In sum total, Utah Symphony’s evening of Strauss is a masterful telling of stories as symphonies.
The May 5 performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at Abravanel Hall, 123 W South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. Family night packages are available for $30 for two adults and two children. All tickets are available by calling 801-533-NOTE or by visiting Abravanel Hall.