Posts Tagged 'Four Last Songs'

Saluting 12/13

Saluting 2012-13Even though the Oregon Symphony’s 2012/13 season now belongs to the ages and most musicians have already slipped into summer vacation mode, Ol’ Beavey still finds himself daydreaming about the sonic glories revealed during the previous 16 programs. *heavy sigh* Old-school classics like Mahler’s brutal Sixth, Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius, and (of course) Beethoven’s epic Ninth… Contemporary gems like Andrew Norman’s Drip, Asyla by Thomas Adès, and Narong Prangcharoen’s trippy Phenomenon… Orchestral surprises like Antheil’s brilliant Jazz Symphony, Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Mussorgsky’s kick-ass original version of Night on Bald Mountain… Visiting virtuosos like Alban Gerhardt, Jennifer Koh, James Ehnes, André Watts, and (of course) Stephen Hough… Oh, don’t get me started! Extra-special beavertail salutes go out to a pair of musicians who made this season extraordinary: Joe Berger on horn who produced so many astonishing sounds during 2012/13 that I simply lost track, and soprano Amber Wagner who graced the Schnitzer stage with Coach K. and Concertmaster Kwak to deliver the most transcendent moment of the year with her heart-rending, soul-searching, and mind-blowing performance of Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. Oh my, what a season!


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.

What’s On Tap?

beer tapsThis Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the Oregon Symphony kicks things off with the “Posthorn” Serenade #9 by Mozart and then slows it down a notch with a pair of beauties penned by Richard Strauss: Death and Transfiguration and Four Last Songs.  And those songs?  They’ll be sung by Met soprano (and native Oregonian) Amber Wagner!
Why go? Um, three reasons: 1) Principal Trumpeter Jeff Work is gonna be impersonating a post horn, 2) Concertmaster Sarah Kwak will likely bring tears to about a thousand pairs of eyes during the last two of the Four Last Songs, and 3) After two-and-a-half looong months, Maestro Carlos is finally back on the Schnitzer podium working his usual musical magic.
For more deets, click on *the band’s website, call one of their lovely phone reps at (503) 228-1353, or stop in today or Monday at their downtown box office at 923 SW Washington.

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