This weekend, I am thrilled to conduct my second subscription program with the MSO focusing on the music of Mozart and Strauss. Part of the fun in this program is the chance to hear two drastically different “orchestras”. Just look at the breakdown in numbers between the two first half works:
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel – 89 musiciansMozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 – 44 musicians
The second half will have the same contrast with more than twice as many players needed for the Strauss’ Rosenkavalier, than for Mozart’s Idomeneo. By placing these composers together on each half rather than allowing an intermission to separate them, I hope to draw your attention to the remarkable similarities in the spirit of these works despite a completely different look and sound to the orchestra.
Strauss loved to conduct the music of Mozart and in particular was fascinated with the first large-scale opera from Mozart, Idomeneo. In fact, Strauss took the time to arrange Idomeneo and edit it with his own music in an attempt to make the opera more accessible to regular opera audiences. While the full opera can be difficult for stage directors and audiences alike, the music in the opera is some of the most ambitious music Mozart would ever attempt and like Strauss, I have constantly tried to find ways to bring it to the concert hall. I cannot tell you how many times people have heard music from Idomeneo and have told me, “I can’t believe Mozart really wrote that!” This weekend, the MSO will perform the Overture and the rarely heard “Ballet Music” from the opera. The ballet music is almost never performed with the full opera because it comes after the story is over and all the singers have left the stage. While a closing ballet was fashionable in the 18th century, it would seem very unsatisfying to audiences today. However, as a concert work, I think it is a masterpiece and musically ties together the whole opera with its contrasting intimate moments and large storm scenes.
The two Strauss works I have chosen for the program seem to me closest in spirit to Mozart. Elegance, humor, transparency, brilliance are all words I could use for either composer and are found throughout this program. Of course, I cannot finish this post without mentioning my history with Der Rosenkavalier (see my post from last year), but these will be my first performances of the Suite. Put quite simply, I have been having the time of my life this week!