Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Evening of Sublime Strauss with Mattila and the SLSO

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Evening of Sublime Strauss with Mattila and the SLSO

Article excerpt

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was the heir to Richard Wagner's mantle as an opera composer, and a witty, insightful orchestral writer who honed the art of the tone poem and made it sparkle. On Friday night at Powell Symphony Hall, his genius was on full display.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra music director David Robertson chose two works of Straussian genius and one interesting rarity to fill the weekend's programs. He didn't have to look far to find the first piece's excellent soloists, and reached into the higher reaches of the world of opera for his last.

Strauss, who read widely and deeply, took key episodes of Miguel de Cervantes' essential novel "Don Quixote" and turned it into an unusually perceptive musical character study in 1898. Here it was given with a few lines of introduction and the variation titles projected onto the surtitle screen above the stage, a helpful touch.

"Quixote" is a cello concerto by any other name, but with an unusually explicit dramatic arc. The titular Knight of Sorrowful Countenance is played by the cello soloist, and his squire, Sancho Panza, becomes a great role for the principal viola, with assists from other instruments.

SLSO principal cello Daniel Lee is the equal of any on today's musical scene; playing with rich, expressive tone, he inhabited the music and his role with stunning focus and depth. Lee was well matched with his Sancho Panza, principal viola Beth Guterman Chu; they were simpatico and on the same page in every sense.

Robertson brought out the humor (Strauss' brilliant effect of using flutter-tonguing brass to impersonate sheep), the pathos and the quiet final triumph of the would-be knight, ably assisted by the fully-engaged orchestra. …

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