Nov 23, 2023 - 8 PM EST
Richard Strauss’s tone poems (one-movement symphonic works that tell a story) depict epic tales and ask life’s big questions. Contemporary Canadian composers Kelly-Marie Murphy and Kevin Lau reply with fresh companion pieces to two of Strauss’s best-known tone poems.
Concert-level mastery of a work like Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 takes patience, talent, and determination, and guest guest horn player Felix Klieser, a musical prodigy who was born with no arms, has worked since childhood to reach that pinnacle, learning to play the horn with his left foot.
Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan follows the legendary and heartless womanizer through days and nights of wicked promiscuity and debauchery, through romance after ardent romance, until the infamous philanderer succumbs to a fiery and mournful end. Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy took inspiration for her first NAC commission, which premieres tonight, from the other events taking place when Strauss wrote Don Juan, including Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night, and the extraordinary life of Scottish astronomer, Williamina Fleming, one of the founding members of the “Harvard Computers”.
Strauss was 25 years old when he composed another of his tone poems, Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration), a “cosmic musical drama, concerned with the twilight of life,” (thelistenersclub.com). The piece asks lofty questions: What is the nature of life and what lies on the other side? Canadian composer Kevin Lau answers with his transcendent NACO commission entitled The Infinite Reaches, also making its world premiere in Southam Hall.