Pittsburgh Symphony offers up slices of Wagner's 'The Ring'
Richard Wagner's gargantuan “The Ring of the Nibelungen” is probably the origin of the familiar sentence, “It ain't over till the fat lady sings.” The cycle of four operas, spanning about 15 hours, ends with the 20-plus minute “Immolation Scene” for soprano with orchestra.
While “The Ring” is immensely popular with a substantial portion of opera fans, it contains too much great music to be limited to the opera house. Given Wagner's brilliant and rich orchestration, playing excerpts at symphony concerts has been popular since the operas were first performed in the late 19th century.
Donald Runnicles will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with Stephen Hough as piano soloist, at concerts on March 21 and 23 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program is “Euphonic Blues” by Nancy Galbraith, Piano Concerto No. 1 by Felix Mendelssohn, and excerpts from “The Ring of the Nibelungen” by Richard Wagner.
The conductor is general music director of Deutsche Oper, Berlin, and was music director of San Francisco Opera from 1992-2009. He'll lead five excerpts, with no singers, to fill the concert's second half, including “The Ride of the Valkyries,” “Forest Murmurs,” a particularly lovely change of pace from the intense drama, and the “Immolation Scene.”
Hough returns after offering riveting Heinz Hall performances of concerti by Camille Saint-Saens and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He recorded both Mendelssohn concerti in the mid-'90s for the Hyperion label and enjoys playing it again every couple of seasons.
“It's 20 minutes of tremendous invention and energy,” he says. “When I was recording them, I couldn't believe how often I kept seeing ‘fuoco' (fire), in the piano and orchestral music. If you think of a term that would sum up Mendelssohn, some people would chose ‘leggiero' (light) or ‘grazioso' (graceful), but it's actually that fire that gives Mendelssohn his real character — that internal combustion that is so characteristic of his music.”
After saying the concerto's slow movement is like a song without words, and the finale is cleverly filled with good humor and grace, Hough emphasizes ways Mendelssohn was a good composer.
“A lot of time, people who aren't professional musicians don't think about someone being a good composer, a real craftsman — knowing how to take a good tune, where the architecture feels good,” he says. “The actual form of it was unique at the time. It is in one movement formed from three movements running together and using melodies from one in all three movements. It's quite forward-looking and so well-written for the piano, you know he must have been a great pianist.”
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.