On May 27, the final offering of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 18th season, “Cabrera Conducts Bruckner,” at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts promises to be music to the ears of attendees in more than one respect.
In keeping with his ever-present goal of leaving audiences with the feeling they’ve just experienced something remarkable, music director Donato Cabrera has planned a hearty triple-treat program featuring an overture from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last opera, Richard Strauss’ only concerto for oboe and Anton Bruckner’s magnificent Symphony No. 6.
The Magic Flute Overture by Mozart, whom Strauss and Bruckner both idolized, will provide a dramatic opening to the evening. It will be followed by 21-year-old rising star Liam Boisset, who will make his debut playing Richard Strauss’ autumnal Oboe Concerto, which was famously inspired by conversations between the aging composer and a young U.S. Army corporal-oboist at the end of World War II.
The evening will conclude with Bruckner’s magisterial Symphony No. 6, one of the only symphonies that remained unchanged by the composer. To add poignancy to the conclusion of the 2016–17 season, which began with the works of Gustav Mahler, the 1899 premiere of Bruckner’s symphony was conducted by none other than Mahler, who was in the midst of composing his Symphony No. 4.
“This is the first time that the Las Vegas Philharmonic will be performing anything by Bruckner, even though he wrote nine monumental symphonies,” explained Cabrera. “His music is very important to Las Vegas. He had a very unique role when he was alive, as to what he represented. A contemporary to Mahler, his music has become very popular in the U.S. His music is about harmony. It speaks to the group as a whole and tells the story of all of us together.”
Citing the age-old cliche that music is the universal language, Cabrera maintains that in order for audiences to connect with the music of any genre, it needs to be performed with passion. Cabrera found that passion in young oboist Boisset, who graduates from The Juilliard School on May 18. Cabrera first met Boisset while he was with the San Francisco Youth Orchestra.
The dichotomy of a 21-year-old playing a rare oboe concerto by a composer referred to as being in his Indian summer when he wrote it was not lost on Cabrera. Boisset, who interprets it as being nostalgic with an air of innocence and the joy and excitement of youth, relates it to compositions like the Vienna waltzes and Strauss’ earlier operatic works. And while he feels honored to be playing this work by the great Strauss, he admitted that it has its challenges.
“It’s incredibly physically demanding,” Boisset revealed. “It’s been compared to swimming under the English Channel. Back when it was written, people were experimenting with devices that allowed musicians to breathe while playing.
“But there are no rests written, and there are incredibly long stretches where there is no time to breathe — quite a few of them coming at a point in this 20-25-minute piece where one is already tired.
“So I have to know how to shape things so that I can provide myself with time to breathe. Plus, musically, there is a variety of playing techniques and dynamics to cover since there is a full palette of colors and textures.”
Overall, it’s a season that undoubtedly will end on a bright note and with some interesting strings attached.