The KSO's May Masterworks concert pair offers a grand opportunity for grand opera music. The centerpiece of the concerts will be The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure, which is music from the four operas making up Wagner's Ring cycle, arranged by Henk de Vlieger. The lighter side of this music was presented in January, 2015 as part of our “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” Pops concert, along with footage of Bugs and Elmer as Siegfried and Brunhilde. While there won't be any singing on our concert, there will be a massive orchestra featuring a rarely heard instrument that was invented just for these operas: the Wagner Tuba. (And please remember, his name is pronounced “VOG-ner”). The Wagner tuba is an instrument that is doubled by French horn players. I can't find the words to describe the difference between a French horn's sound and a Wagner tuba's sound, but the difference is real, and worth coming out to experience. One unusual thing about this concert is the presence of not one but TWO pieces of music that have offstage brass. At two different points in the Wagner, principal horn Jeffery Whaley will step off the stage and play the vaunted Siegfried horn calls that every horn player loves.
Our Wagner Tuba Quartet, from left: Sean Donovan, Mark Harrell, Mitzi Hall, Katie Johnson.
A better look at the Wagner tuba (right) compared to French horn (left).
The concert will open with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, one of four overtures Beethoven composed for various productions of his opera Fidelio. More like a movement of a symphony than an overture per se, this work features principal trumpet Chase Hawkins rendering two fanfares from different parts of the house. There is also a demonically difficult violin lick shortly after the fanfares, you can't miss it. The work is considered the best of the four overtures Beethoven composed for Fidelio, but it has been criticized for overwhelming the music which follows it in the opera-- in essence, for being TOO good.
Between the Beethoven and the Wagner comes a work which is decidedly not from 19th-century Germany. American composer Christopher Theofanidis (rhymes with “free this”) has written a three-movement suite based on Australian aboriginal creation myths. Theofanidis' musical language is reminiscent of Adam Schoenberg, whose Finding Rothko we performed last month, and of Gian Carlo Menotti. I find it remarkable that the four horns that lead off the work seem louder than the 11 (or so) horns that populate the Wagner orchestra.
A special tribute will be offered after the Beethoven. Keyboardist Carol Zinavage, who is resigning at the end of the season, will be honored for her 31 years of playing with the orchestra. When I was new in town, she and I became fast friends, and soon began a long string of (roughly) annual recital collaborations. We discovered that our musical interests had a lot of overlap, especially concerning Rock n' Roll, and it was so heartening to know another person who “gets” my sense of humor. We'll miss ya, Carol!