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Experience the passions of springtime in this romantic event at the symphony. The renowned conductor Marek Janowski conducts works by music’s master of sensuality, Richard Wagner. Hear Tannhäuser’s hedonistic adventure in the Venusberg followed by the enrapturing Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. Plus, the “fierce and impressive” (San Francisco Classical Voice) James Ehnes turns up the bravado in Bruch’s rousing Violin Concerto No. 1.
All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.
Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1
At A Glance
Ruy Blas Overture 1839 | 7 mins
Mendelssohn called Victor Hugo’s historical drama Ruy Blas “detestable and more utterly beneath contempt than you could believe.” Ever the good sport, Mendelssohn was still persuaded to write this Overture for a Leipzig benefit performance of Hugo’s play in 1839. The Ruy Blas Overture does not prefigure any specific action in the play, although the disparate moods it traverses parallel some of the emotional states encountered in the drama. As one would expect from the mature Mendelssohn, the orchestration is inspired and, in certain ways, foreshadows Verdi’s hyper-Romantic operas of the ensuing decade. Read More
Violin Concerto No. 1 1866/1868 | 36 mins
Renowned violinist Joseph Joachim, who collaborated with Bruch in revising this concerto to its final version, once said: “The Germans have four violin concertos. . . . The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch.” In the opening movement, orchestral chords and solo flourishes alternate. Bruch finds room for two expansive and memorable melodies, then brings back the opening chords and flourishes, using them this time to prepare the soft sinking into the Adagio. In the Adagio resides the soul of this perennially fresh and touching concerto, lyric rapture being heightened by Bruch’s artfully cultivated way with form, proportion, and sequence. As for the crackling, Gypsy-tinged finale, some might assume that Bruch had borrowed a notion or two from his slightly older friend Johannes Brahms. It turns out that Bruch got there first. Read More
Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser 1845/1861 | 24 mins
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 1859 | 17 mins
The operas of Wagner’s maturity synthesized disparate disciplines, including music, literature, the visual arts, ballet, and architecture. He had not quite arrived there in Tannhäuser, but he was getting close. The plot of Tannhäuser derives from medieval German legend filtered through nineteenth-century Romanticism. The title character, unfulfilled by the orgiastic abandon he has experienced on the Venusberg, discovers the possibility of something better—call it redemption, if you will—through the chaste purity of sacred devotion. Read More
Mature Wagner arrived with Tristan und Isolde (unveiled in 1865). Above all, it is for its harmony that Tristan und Isolde is universally considered a watershed work. LISTEN FOR: In the opening measures of the Prelude we hear a curious chord, neither consonant nor strikingly dissonant, that will lend an uncanny sense of ambivalence and yearning throughout the opera’s immense span. Read More
Jeanette Yu is Editorial Director and Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor at the San Francisco Symphony