Press

Symphony ends season with glowing melodies

  • David Hendricks

The dwindling violin passage by Concertmaster Eric Gratz to conclude Rimsky-Korsakov’s sweeping “Scheherazade” Saturday night brought the San Antonio Symphony’s 75th season and its first in the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts to an spectacular end.

The program was one of the most joyous of the season, one gorgeous melody after another. If melody was food, this was a nutritious feast.

“Scheherazade” was performed with full-throated brass, glittery winds, powerful percussion and silky strings, blended under Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing to be transparent and balanced to perfect effect.

Numerous musicians had solo parts, but Gratz was the star amid all the razzle dazzle and romance. The composition is famous for its brilliant orchestration, and the orchestra presented every aspect.”

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San Antonio Symphony shines in superb Tobin Center

  • Scott Cantrell

“I’ve been impressed by Lang-Lessing’s conducting of operas, most recently the Dallas Opera’s 2014 Die tote Stadt, and the operatic background doubtless contributed to a fine sense of phrasing and dramatic propulsion… the two tone poems were splendidly paced and projected.”

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Strauss meets Mozart in symphony concert

  • David Hendricks

“The Strauss may have won the night by itself. Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing perfectly paced the orchestra through the episodes of pain and suffering at life’s end and the reflections of life’s joys and conflicts.”

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Racette’s Salome Puts Lurid Seal On Opera San Antonio

  • Diane Windeler

“SAN ANTONIO — As the first full-scale opera of its inaugural season,  Opera San Antonio offered the much anticipated debut of soprano Patricia Racette in her first fully staged performance of Richard Strauss’ Salome (after a concert version at the Ravinia Festival last summer). The musically and dramatically incisive production was conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing and directed and choreographed by Candace Evans at the 1,700-seat H-E-B Performance Hall of the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Strauss himself declared that the ideal Salome should be a 16-year-old girl with the voice of an Isolde. That combination is rare, indeed, which accounts for the hefty Salomes over the years who have wisely avoided the dreaded Dance of the Seven Veils, or the lithe singing actresses who looked right but lacked the chops for the music’s  huge vocal challenges.

Salome (Patricia Racette) listens to Jochanaan in the cistern. Racette proved to have the right mix in the opening performance Jan. 8, delivering the goods with intelligent musicianship and a more robust, silver-flecked instrument than she normally displays.

Any concerns about bringing her brighter sound to what amounts to a Wagnerian role generally were put to rest. Salome’s vocal range covers more than two octaves, from the top of the treble staff down to G below middle C. Racette’s ringing high notes were well supported, while most of the lower phrases were rich and mahogany-hued. Some lines were mere whispers, others – especially when she reacted to Jochanaan’s rebuffs – were almost shrieking. Later, as she wheedled Herod to give her the gruesome reward, her dramatic pacing was carefully considered as she wove a tapestry of ever-increasing madness that was downright chilling.”

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Salome

  • Mike Greenberg

“The San Antonio Symphony sounded glorious, and its music director, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conducted with seamless flow and a fine ear for detail. The H-E-B Performance Hall in the recently opened Tobin Center for the Performing Arts handily passed its first test as an opera venue. The orchestra was able to project the full spectrum of Strauss’ colors and pumped plenty of sound into the hall without overpowering the singers.”

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DOA in Moscow, but now very much alive

  • Mike Greenberg

“Let this be a warning to any composer of a symphony, a piano concerto or an opera: Do not allow the première to be given in Moscow. A San Antonio unveiling might be a better bet.

Two of the major works on the San Antonio Symphony’s program Oct. 31 in the Tobin Center were first performed in Moscow, where they were both flops. The critics generally savaged both P.I. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (1878) and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s first large-scale work, the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1892), and audiences didn’t respond with any greater warmth. Today, of course, Tchaikovsky’s symphony is a well-loved standard, and Rachmaninoff’s concerto (in its revised form of 1917) is widely appreciated. The original version of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Forza del destino also had its première in Moscow (1862), and it, too was a flop. Verdi revised it twice, and the now-familiar overture on the symphony’s program was appended to his final version of 1869. The concert opened with the second of the season’s ‘American Preludes’ commissions, Antonio Carlos DeFeo’s brief but fetching Promenade. Music director Sebastian Lang-Lessing was at the helm.”

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An opera contest of Wagnerian proportions

  • Melinda Bargreen

“The audience voted, the orchestra voted, and the judges also voted. Excitement ran high in McCaw Hall for the third International Wagner Competition, with nine competing singers who have the potential to make careers in one of the most demanding vocal categories of all.

Everything about the competition was first-class, including Robert Dahlstrom’s beautiful stage set — with large paintings on the side walls, and alcoves displaying gorgeous glass objects. Another special touch: a quartet of new Wagner tubas performing a new “Speight Motif” fanfare composed by Daron Hagen. The orchestra, under Sebastian Lang-Lessing’s baton, rose splendidly to the challenge of 18 different Wagnerian arias in succession.”

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Review: Dallas Opera’s ‘Die tote Stadt’ is mostly worth the wait

  • Scott Cantrell

“Die tote Stadt is such a glorious wallow in soaring melodies and sumptuous, brilliantly colored orchestration that the rare actual performance is a special occasion. Alas, the very qualities that make Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s ripely romantic 1920 opera so stirring also make it a challenge to realize in the theater. On the Dallas Opera’s wish list for at least a decade, it finally made it to the Winspear Opera House on Friday night.

The central role of Paul, a man so obsessed with his dead wife that he imagines her reincarnated in another woman he has just met, calls for a tenor of Wagnerian/Straussian heft, and one able to sing great stretches in his upper range. Marietta, the object of his transferred obsession, must be a soprano of comparable power, and plausible as a dancer. Add an elaborately textured orchestral score that requires fastidious rehearsal — Strauss meets Puccini — and very careful management in performance.”

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Concert Review: The San Antonio Symphony

  • Davis Hendricks

“A concert ranging from biblical sweep to 20th century raw orchestral power marked the San Antonio Symphony’s second program of the season Friday night.

One of the Bible’s most dramatic stories, the Israelite journey across the Red Sea out of Egypt, played out with the glory of a Handel oratorio, only it was by Schubert, a rare performance of his Mirjams Siegesgesang, or “Miriam’s Song of Triumph.”

The Mastersingers and mezzo soprano Catherine Martin joined the orchestra for the vivid musical imagery of the sea opening for Moses and his followers and then the sea swallowing up the pursuing Egyptians.

Martin is a San Antonio native who now is a global opera star. The Schubert work requires strength and stamina to be heard over the orchestra and choir, plus a wide vocal range. Martin checked off on all of those, adding her beautiful, rich voice.

The concluding fugal passages of the orchestra and Mastersingers were spine-tingling. The Schumann Piano Concerto followed, featuring a second guest artist, New York’s Jonathan Biss, who lately has become a leading Schumann champion after earlier performing as a Beethoven specialist.

From the opening bars, it was evident Biss knew how to convey Schumann’s lyrical soul.

The concerto was presented like a dreamy love letter, especially in the first and second movements. Biss turned playful in the final movement, the wonderful melodies sparkling with electricity.

The orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, performed with precision and warmth along with Biss.”

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