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Concert should entertain and enlighten

January 15, 1999|By Elizabeth Schulze

Whenever I put a concert program together, I have three goals in mind: to enlighten, to entertain, and to inform. Each program should contain the familiar, the substantial and occasionally, the provocative. We who make our life in the classical orchestral world have the opportunity to involve ourselves in some of the best artistic efforts made by musical men and women over the past two and a half centuries. It is both a privilege and an obligation to share these great accomplishments with our community.

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On Jan. 16 and 17, your Maryland Symphony Orchestra will perform Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Overture to 'Die Fledermaus,' " Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs" and Jean Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2 in D Major." These works have proved to be favorites of symphonic audiences in the many years since they were first performed. But each of these works has "Masterpiece" status for a different reason and will therefore affect the listener differently, whether emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. What will make this concert-going experience so exciting is the musical contrast among these works. Expect to be entertained, certainly, but also enlightened!

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It has been said that good light music chases its listener, whereas good serious music asks the listener to chase it. In the case of the music by the "Waltz King," Johann Strauss Jr. we may do well to ask, who's chasing whom? Even now, the music of Strauss, his father and brothers, as presented on New Year's Day by the Vienna Philharmonic, draws hundreds of millions around the world to their TV sets to join in the annual celebration. Strauss Jr.'s "Overture to 'Die Fledermaus' " easily accomplishes its mission to chase you into your seat, placing you squarely in the midst of an exciting event.

Richard Strauss was born into the froth and ebullience of 19th-century imperial Vienna. Though no relation to the "Waltz King," Richard was nevertheless a musical aristocrat. By his 20s, Richard was composing major orchestral works including his famous tone poem, "Death and Transfiguration." It is fitting that in the fourth of his "Four Last Songs," written when he was in his 80s, Strauss alludes to this early work, quoting a few measures as the words of the song ask, "Can this at last be death?" Someone once asked me which music I would take with me in the unlikely event I was stranded on a desert island. While I'm grateful that I'll never have to face such a situation, I do know that Strauss' "Four Last Songs" would be among the musical treasures I'd take with me. For anyone who has lived and lost, these songs speak directly to your soul. I, for one, have never been able to listen to them dry-eyed.

The proof of a great symphony has always been the inexorable way in which an initial musical idea plays itself out to its conclusion. In his second symphony, Sibelius takes three notes and out of these creates a work that culminates in one of the most satisfying and triumphant finales in all of the symphonic literature. A tour de force for the orchestra, this work challenges and inspires each musician to play his or her best. Come hear the Maryland Symphony rise to the occasion!




Elizabeth Schulze is one of four candidates for musical director of Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

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