Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Carefully Crafted Masterworks Program

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Carefully Crafted Masterworks Program

Article excerpt

Guest conductor Carl St. Clair has structured next weekend's Masterworks concerts with the Sarasota Orchestra as two halves that are "sonically and emotionally completely separate from each other."

The concerts will open with Satie's "Gymnopedies," move into Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 and conclude with Strauss's tone poem "Ein Heldenleben" ("A Hero's Life").

The Satie piece is "so delicate in its simplicity, which is unusual. The concert will grow with that moment of Satie, then to really get into this beautiful story of this composer and this heavier sound."

"A Hero's Life," completed in 1898, was Richard Strauss' autobiographical composition, written in the key of E flat, "the key of heroes," said St. Clair, whose last guest-conducting stint in Sarasota was in 2012 and involved Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

"It covers five octaves, a pretty heavy theme when you write it for yourself," he said.

E flat is also considered the key of masculinity, and reflects Strauss' anger at how critics had treated his earlier works and also Beethoven's "Eroica" ("Hero").

"The first section is the hero himself, describing himself," said St. Clair. "The second section is the critics. Like we all do, when we're heavily criticized -- you have this section where you can feel his pining, his feeling bad -- then we turn to people we trust."

The third section, "The Hero's Companion," was written about Strauss' wife, Paulina de Ahna, a soprano for whom her husband wrote several operatic roles. It features a solo violin.

"She brings him back, this love music that happens between the two of them. They fall asleep and he dreams of the critics, and that's where the battle scene is, and a moment where he declares himself the victor."

The fifth section includes references to many of Strauss's earlier works, including repeated motifs from earlier in "A Hero's Life."

"He even quotes music he had written 15 minutes earlier," said St. Clair.

"It finishes with a 'Zarathustra'-like crescendo. It ends with a real feeling of homage and respect. It's a beautiful piece, and all orchestra musicians love performing it because everyone on stage contributes in a very significant way. …

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