Culture Magazine

Concert Review: Choose Your Mountain

By Superconductor @ppelkonen

The Juilliard Orchestra tackles the Alpine Symphony.

by Paul Pelkonen

Concert Review: Choose Your Mountain

"Spock, you didn't tell me there were two Alpine Symphonies last night!"
Image from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier © 1989 Paramount Pictures.

As a concert-goer, I was faced with an unusual dilemma on Wednesday night. Two competing performances of Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony were being offered at the same time: one at Avery Fisher Hall by the Juilliard Orchestra; the other at Carnegie Hall by the European Youth Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. 
I opted for Juilliard, and was rewarded with an engaging program led by Emmanuel Villaume, a French maestro who has conducted Madame Butterfly, Samson et Dalila and Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera.
If you're not familiar with this work (its German title is Ein Alpensinfonie), it is Richard Strauss' final tone poem: a gigantic 51-minute workout for an orchestra that can top out at 148 players (counting the offstage brass band representing a hunting party). In 22 short, contiguous movements, Strauss chronicles a day spent chasing waterfalls, getting lost in the woods, and eventually reaching the peak of a spectacular berg. He then provides the soundtrack for the trip back down the mountain, complete with a realistic orchestral thunderstorm. 
Mr. Villaume led a charged account, drawing on the enthusiasm of the Juilliard students to recreate Strauss' vast mountain landscapes. The horns and cellos evoked the rich Bavarian woodlands. The hunting party came in on cue, loud and raucous but that might have to do with the acoustic issues of Avery Fisher Hall. A solo violin skittered across the ice of a mountain glacier. And the principal oboe, representing the climbers against the vast panorama of nature was plaintive in its solo, which comes at the exact center of this massive work.
The second half of the Alpine features the massive storm scene, hazardous for conductors as well as Strauss' exercise-obsessed climbers. Here, Mr. Villaume maintained tight control of the descent, driving the orchestra forward as the sound became dominated by percussion, wind-machine and thunder sheet. The final chords depicting sunset over the mountains were moving, almost otherworldly.
The concert opened with Wagner's mystical Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, a tone poem in itself that depicts the descent of the Holy Grail from heaven. High, divided violins brought a celestial shimmer, backed up first with cellos and horns. Trumpets and clashing cymbals followed, celebrating this opera's peculiar brand of existential glory in a blaze of orchestral colors.
Three fine products of the Juilliard opera program then came to the stage to sing Hector Berlioz' evocative song cycle Nuit d'ete. Lei Xu is an opera star on the rise, and her soaring soprano made the opening Villanelle both thrilling and nostalgic. Nathalie Mittelbach's smooth mezzo proved hypnotic in "Sur les lagunes", warmly accompanied by Mr. Villaume. Tenor Spencer Lang showed ideal French idiom and a pleasing, liquid sound in "Au cimetière."

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Long Walk 2018 – T Minus 3 Days

    Long Walk 2018 Minus Days

    T minus 3 days till the Great Long Walk of 2018 takes place. This year I’ll be walking from the tip of Cape Cod to the Sagamore Bridge at the base of the Cape... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Wendythomas
  • Free CBD Vape Oil Sample : Pure CBD Oil, Miracle Drop, CBD Oil Benefits

    Free Vape Sample Pure Oil, Miracle Drop, Benefits

    Share This PostFree CBD Vape Oil Sample : Everything You Need To Know About Cannabidiol – 100% Pure CBD Oil, Miracle Drop Benefits – Now Available!... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Tomkey
  • Stop Reading ‘How-To Raise Your Kids’ Articles. Midlife Margaritas Guide to...

    Stop Reading ‘How-To Raise Your Kids’ Articles. Midlife Margaritas Guide Raising Kids.

    I am a big fan of websites like “Grown And Flown” and “Scary Mommy”. They are filled with smart, funny and insightful articles about all the Mommy stages raisin... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Midlifemargaritas
  • Favorite Movie #53: Bell, Book, and Candle

    Favorite Movie #53: Bell, Book, Candle

    Favorite movies that have had an impact on me - #53 - Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) - A middle-aged Jimmy Stewart may seem a strange choice for a romantic... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Xoxoxoe
  • Magiczne Miasta: Włocławek Was 70 Not Out – I Have Visited 70 Places in Poland

    Magiczne Miasta: Włocławek Have Visited Places Poland

    “Someday you will find me, caught beneath the landslide; in a champagne supernova in the sky” – Noel Gallagher. Magiczne Miasta: Włocławek was 70 Not Out –... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Northernirishmaninpoland
  • Wild Wood

    Here is Wild Wood! Wild Wood. 30″ x 40″, Oil on Wood, © 2018 Cedar Lee This painting was inspired by a photo my friend took on Wildwood Trail, a... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Artbycedar
  • Video of the Week: Brahma Mudra

    Video Week: Brahma Mudra

    This version of Brahma mudra is a practice that includes both sound and movements of your head and neck. Practicing this mudra has practical benefits for the... Read more

    The 24 September 2018 by   Ninazolotow