strauss, mozart, posthorns, and end of life issues

Richard Strauss

I’m working on the program notes for the Oregon Symphony’s January 26-28, 2013 concerts, which will be a series you won’t want to miss. The first half is given to Mozart’s magnificent Serenade No. 9 in D major, K. 320 “The Posthorn”. Now, with a nickname like that, you’d expect there to be a virtual posthornpalooza going on. Not exactly. One of the trios of one of the minuets has some prominent passages for the postally-inclined horn and that’s it. Don’t fret, however, the piece is charming and beautiful, and even borders on the sublime on occasion. The second half of the concert contains two of my most favorite pieces in the entire repertoire, and they’re both by Richard Strauss. The first is his early tone poem Death and Transfiguration, Op. 25. It was a seminal work in my journey along the path towards becoming a professional musician, and so it has a huge sentimental attachment for me. Not only that, but I think it’s one of his strongest compositions just from a musical standpoint, and also one of his most vividly told musical narratives. Plus John Williams stole the transfiguration theme for use in his score to Superman. The last work on the program is Strauss’ Four Last Songs. The last pieces he ever completed, they are autumnal settings of poems depicting the close of life with great dignity, affection, and love. Something manages to get in my eye every time I listen to them – imagine the impact of hearing them in person!

Here are my picks for my favorite recordings of the works on the program – enjoy!