Strauss & Mahler
February 19 - February 22, 2015
Turn of the century Vienna was a world in which radical change vied with a tendency towards nostalgia in an uneasy balance. Youth and old age had their distinctly different viewpoints, and each found indelible artistic expression. The unconventional assemblage of pieces on this program is a reflection of that tension and imbalance.
First come the whirl and bittersweet nostalgia of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Frühlingsstimmen, one of the best known works by that master of the waltz. Both glamorous and haunting, it is an evocation of a time of elegance, charm, and endless youth that never really was.
From the buoyancy of the waltz we move to the other end of the spectrum – and to the other Strauss. Richard Strauss’ great last work, the Four Last Songs, is his supreme, uncanny musing on the things of this world that linger most memorably just before the light is extinguished forever. Clothed in an orchestral garb of autumnal colors and radiant in the glow of sunset, it may be the most perfect example of his orchestral art that he bequeathed to us, and it also contains his supreme writing for the female voice. The extraordinary, silver-toned Polish soprano Aga Mikolaj, who has made a specialty of this Strauss masterwork, will be making her Boston debut in these concerts.
Mahler’s Fourth Symphony brings yet another aspect of the complex Viennese matrix to the fore. Light and charming on the surface, but constantly plumbing deep recesses, it is a vision of life, and of the world after life, as seen from the viewpoint of a child who has suffered deprivation in this world, only to discover overflowing abundance in the next. Aga Mikolaj returns in the vocal fourth movement of the symphony as the boy in heaven, experiencing true delight for the very first time. The Fourth Symphony is quite possibly the most perfectly beautiful composition Mahler ever wrote.