More Cowbell

If audience members were allowed to take pictures during the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra concert on Thursday, I would have snapped a photo of the two soloists during Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock). Soprano Emily Birsan gave a lovely performance, as did clarinetist Gary Sperl. He normally sits behind the string section but for this piece he was front and center, giving it his all. I was surprised at how much color rushed to his face as he played. It’s a good thing that he’s also a marathon runner and triathlete.

Ms. Birsan really wowed the audience with three operatic pieces. She sang arias from Verdi’s Rigoletto and La traviata plus an encore from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. She got a standing ovation after the Verdi pieces and again after the encore.

The main event of the concert was An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. It is rarely performed because it requires a very large orchestra. The KSO had to rent a few extra instruments including a heckelphone and a wind machine.

Maestro Lucas Richman told me about the extra instruments on Monday when I recorded an interview with him for future broadcast. Even though we mostly talked about KSO’s holiday show, Lucas did talk a bit about tone poems.

When I was a kid, I pretended to be a conductor, without fully understanding what a conductor does. An Alpine Symphony sounded like a piece I would have pretend-conducted. It has so many different sounds that could captivate a child’s imagination. The sounds represent different animals, a storm and other aspects of a mountain climb.

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