Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Heroic music for a groundbreaking future

Maestro Alasdair Neale talks on Strauss


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Summer Symphony Music Director Alasdair Neale will speak on Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben.”

As a precursor to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's most significant summer in its 24-year history, music director Alasdair Neal will present a free lecture, "Upbeat with Alasdair," on Tuesday, April 8, at the Community Library in Ketchum 6:30 p.m.

Neale will speak on Richard Strauss' epic tone poem, "Ein Heldenleben," which will be performed for the final 2008 Sun Valley Summer Symphony concert on Aug. 18. With the opening of the new concert pavilion, Neale wanted to end the summer with a heroic performance.

"It has been quite a journey," Neale said. "This will be my 13th summer. The organization has grown over the years, has become a huge deal and everyone deserves credit."

The literal translation of "Ein Heldenleben" is "a heroic life," but it is more commonly referred to as "A Hero's Life." The tone poem was completed in 1898 and is Strauss' most significant work.

"I am going to be talking about a hero's life and outlining what a tone poem is, which is a depiction of a concept or an event in music. It is a narrative piece," Neale said.

Neale said "Ein Heldenleben" is the king of tone poems and rightfully so since the work is 45 minutes in length and requires an enormous orchestra. The piece is not regularly performed because of its requirements.

"It is thinking big," Neale said. "We will be bringing up some extra symphony musicians, such as horns and trumpets and extra woodwinds."

Neale's talk will go through "Ein Heldenleben" scene by scene, and he will play excerpts from it as well as point out the many highlights to the work, which will give attendees a taste for what they will hear in August.

"I've known it since I was a teenager and loved it because it was so grand and epic," Neale said. "There are wonderful intimate moments, especially at the end. I want to walk lecture participants through the piece and give them a keen sense of anticipation and curiosity as to what the piece sounds like."

Neale said most people know a little bit of a Strauss' music from Stanley Kubrick's "2001 A Space Odyssey," and that Strauss has influenced modern and popular culture. His work has had a lasting value for well over 100 years.

Performing "Ein Heldenleben" is in keeping with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's ideas of thinking big, exemplified especially with the opening of the new pavilion in August.

"It is a thrilling time for the community," Neale said. "I think it's going to be iconic, and people will identify Sun Valley with the summer symphony. We could not do this without the support of the community, and it is a free of charge."




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