February 27th - 7:30 pm
SOU Recital Hall, Ashland
February 28th - 7:30 pm
Craterian Theater, Medford
March 1st - 3:00 pm
GPHS Performing Arts Center, Grants Pass
One thing I have learned about the Rogue Valley Symphony [orchestra] is that the bigger the challenge, the greater the result. The musicians handled such venerable war horses as Prokofiev’s Fifth, Shostakovitch’s Fifth and, last season, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with aplomb. Therefore, I decided to raise the stakes yet again by presenting Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, “Romantic.” It is indeed a quintessential German Romantic symphony! I decided to pair this monumental piece with the overture by Richard Wagner — the composer whom Bruckner adored above all. The pairing of Wagner and Bruckner offers so much musical substance that I felt there was nothing that could possibly enhance this program any further. Let this be a showcase for our wonderful orchestra!
The Austrian composer Anton Bruckner was a devotee of Richard Wagner. He saw as his mission to take the new harmonic language of Wagner’s musical dramas and adopt it to the realm of symphony. What emerged was a truly original art because Bruckner was, more than he himself would acknowledge, a genius in his own right. His symphonies are built on a monumental scale from the massive blocks of contrasting music. An organ virtuoso, he made the orchestra sounds like a gigantic organ.
Wagner’s Master-Singers from Nurenberg offers a rare opportunity to hear the lighthearted side of the otherwise very serious composer. This overture is, in my opinion, the heavyweight champion of the lighthearted music. Wagner introduce themes of the opera in an elaborate Sonata form with three, instead of the usual two, main subjects. More importantly, the music has a great forward momentum – it feels unstoppable from the beginning until the very last note. There is very little yearning and mysticism in this Wagner. Instead, we get a generous dose of a hearty German humor.