Homeward Bound – Part II

GoldenDuring intermission the fiddlers multiplied like rabbits, redoubling their numbers to join a universally beefed-up band for an epic Strauss two-fer: Death and Transfiguration followed seamlessly, without applause, by the composer’s posthumously published Four Last Songs.  [Intriguingly, Coach K. and the orchestra also employed this attacca format of musical collage in their most recent collaboration with a solo vocalist – a program recorded and *currently nominated for a Grammy.]  The singer joining the Oregon Symphony on Monday night was a voluptuous Roman goddess named Amber Wagner, who graced the Schnitzer stage 3 years ago for Rossini’s rather unsorrowful Stabat Mater.  Since that time, Hillsboro’s heroine has made both her European and Metropolitan Opera debuts, returning home not as a student, but as a bona fide star.  Sitting center stage during Death and Transfiguration, the soprano (thankfully) had zero poker face, instantly absorbed by the symphonic power, swaying, smiling, and stealing glances of a conductor in the midst of obvious delight.  Unsurprisingly, the tone poem set the tone perfectly as an introduction to the four final songs Richard Strauss ever composed, and as Ms. Wagner rose to greet her cue, instantly her own transfiguration from audience member to angel was complete.

At this point in our review, a more seasoned critic would handily describe the subsequent performance of Four Last Songs, dutifully noting the orchestral and vocal proficiency on full display. As this particular blogger begins to well up with tears when faced with the memory of Monday night, however, it’s probably best to skip any futile attempts at explaining the sublimely ineffable.  Instead, I leave you with Maestro Kalmar’s most apt description of Amber Wagner: Whenever she opens her mouth, gold comes out.  Indeed.  After the final last song was sung and the hushed strings, winds, and brass slowly left this world forever, somehow the sound of an intensely precious yet supple voice remained, offering hope that in the end – in the very end – everything would be okay.

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2 Responses to “Homeward Bound – Part II”


  1. 1 Nancy Ives (@cellonancy) January 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    You actually brought a tear to my eye with that closing paragraph! Beautiful evocation of the deep feelings we all shared during that performance…

  2. 2 Marvin Dawson January 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Sadly, we could hear little of the quiet Death and Transfiguration, due to the incessant coughing and continuous hearing aid squeal,


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