After being electrified with Strauss's monstrous, virtually
unperformed tone poem An Alpine Symphony
the previous weekend, Friday's medium-large audience (with more younger people
than usual) got to savor two of the composer's repertoire pieces. Krzysztof
Urbański opened with Don Juan,
Op. 20 (1889), Strauss's one tone poem where his musical elements outshine his
programmatic ones. Filled with heroic/love music, the 18-minute work's
scintillating orchestration ushered in music's post-Romantic era and set a
standard in musical inspiration for that period which even Strauss had
Except for one early entrance at the climax of the first
love theme, Urbański had his forces well in tow, giving us one of the best
Don Juans I can recall. The unison
horns were perfect in stating their big theme and its reprise near the end.
And ISO principal Jennifer Christian gave us all the
shadings required of the oboe's extended love theme about halfway through the
With Strauss forming the program's bookends, Urbański
closed with Till Eulenspiegel's Merry
Pranks, Op. 28 (1895). The music apes the behavior of a 13th-century rogue
("Eulenspiegel" means "Owl's mirror"), who upsets apple carts, mocks priests,
flirts with women, and leads a generally scandalous
life, resulting in his ultimate capture, sentencing and execution.
Once again our music director had the measure of this
orchestral challenge, with the strings, the winds, the horns, the brass and the
percussion all meeting on a common ground. The addition of the bass drum to
this work was noteworthy, in that its location halfway upstage on the far right
side enabled more deep resonance into the hall than is usual for the Circle
stage. Till's death sentence was therefore "throbbing."
Guest violinist Stefan Jackiw was featured in the program's
two middle works, Beethoven's light-veined Romance in F for Violin and
Orchestra, Op. 50 and Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 219 ("Turkish"). For both of
these the orchestra shrank down to half the size of the Strauss offerings, the
Mozart using only two oboes and two horns with its strings.
Written in 1775 when he was only 19, Mozart's last three of
his five violin concertos from that year are full masterworks, giving us strong
hints of the great Mozart to come. Especially No. 5 with its serenely moving
Adagio; it showed Jackiw at his best, delivering a well controlled singing
tone. The two outer movements were less successful with racing tempos, causing
our 28-year-old soloist to glide past notes that should have been heard,
especially in the last movement's "Turkish" section. A much-more-common slower
tempo would have benefited Jackiw's solo work.
As for the Beethoven Romance, it was "fine." Feb. 7-8 Hilbert Circle Theatre