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Thursday, May 1, 2014

DeWaart conducts Wagner, Mozart and Elgar

Three superb pieces at the MSO this weekend

Edo DeWaart
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This weekend Edo DeWaart will conduct the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in three wonderful works in place of the originally scheduled concert-length Mahler Sixth Symphony. The program will begin with Richard Wagner’s enchanting Siegfried Idyll. He wrote it as a birthday present to his wife Cosima soon after the birth of their son Siegfried. It’s serene from beginning to end. On Christmas morning 1870 he gently surprised her awake with this heavenly music wafting from musicians positioned on the stairway leading up to her bedroom. 

Next will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s exhilarating Symphony No. 38. Anyone who’s never heard one of the great Mozart symphonies should prepare to experience energetic excitement in the outer two movements and a beautiful central slow movement in this 1786 masterpiece. 

Following an intermission the concert will conclude with Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. This superb 1899 example of the Theme and Variations form put English composer Elgar (1857-1934) on the map as one of the world-recognized composers, and he followed it up with a dozen or more orchestral works that stand among the greatest music in the classical repertoire.

The title Enigma Variations refers to what the theme is that generated the subsequent amazing series of truly various variations. Most examples of the form state the theme prominently at the beginning. In the Enigma Variations the theme is never explicitly stated. It could be the theme isn’t musical at all but simply the theme of friendship. 

Elgar said that each variation was a brief portrayal of one of his closest and dearest friends. These musical variations evoke a spectrum of very different personalities and culminate in a thrilling conclusion. 

Edo DeWaart will lead the MSO in a program of Wagner, Mozart and Elgar at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (929 N. Water St.) at 11:15 a.m. on Friday May 2, and at 8 p.m on Saturday, May 3. For tickets, call 414-291-7605 or visit mso.org.