“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I’ve never done this before, but after tonight’s stunning season-opening performance of the San Antonio Symphony, I might go again Saturday night.
An evening of Mussorgsky’s, ‘Night on Bald Mountain‘ and ‘Pictures at an Exhibition‘ was so emotional, so exuberant, it might take a second hearing to experience it a way it can be put into words.
This is the last season in the Majestic Theater for Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing and the orchestra he conducts with such verve and authority. While many of us already daydream of listening to them inside an outstanding acoustical venue when the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts opens next September, Lang-Lessing himself said from the stage Friday night that there is a palpable sense of nostalgia in the air as he and the musicians embark on this new and last season on East Houston Street, the Symphony’s 74th.”