Strauss serenades San Antonio

If you weren’t already aware, it might surprise you to know that San Antonio has a pretty legit classical music scene. In recent years, our city has made great strides in the arts, including the introduction of an annual festival featuring a different composer every year.

Previous years have focused on Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, among others; this year, the festival features the music of Richard Strauss, the renowned German composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with other notable classical works.

I’m no expert on classical music””and I’m certainly no expert on Strauss””but I like his style. His music is highly accessible, so if you’ve never been a fan of classical music before, Strauss is a good composer to explore.

Among other things, he is known for his tone poems, in which he put literary works to music. Obviously, I think these are really exciting. It’s literature”¦in music form! Musical literature! Strauss adapted works including “Don Juan” and Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” as well as some German folk tales and a story of his own creation. With these tone poems, you can HEAR the stories unravelling, with different aspects like tempo and various instruments contributing to the storylines.

I’m especially thrilled by Strauss’s version of “Don Juan,” a story I know as a Byron poem, though it has a variety of incarnations. The music brings Don Juan’s promiscuous exploits to life, beginning with exciting flourishes that paint an auditory picture of the Don. It’s an entertaining way to experience the story, if you haven’t heard it before.

The Strauss Festival kicked off in early January, but it’s not too late to check out some events””the festival will last into February. Performances have included a production of Strauss’s opera “Salome,” a performance of “Don Juan” and a program that included Mozart’s “Overture to “˜Don Giovanni'” and “Requiem” (I missed it too””I’m heartbroken).

There’s more to come, though! I’d recommend a free performance of works by Strauss and Chopin at the San Fernando Cathedral on Sunday night hosted by Musical Bridges Around the World, a cultural organization. You might also want to check out the symphony’s performance of Strauss’s tone poem “Ein Heldenleben,” or “A Hero’s Life,” next Friday and Saturday.

For Trinity students, tickets for this event are free, thanks to a fabulous deal between the school and the symphony””just don’t forget your Tiger Card!

I never fail to be impressed by the San Antonio Symphony; not only is the group incredibly talented, but the music alone is remarkable for its sheer power.

The symphony’s world-class conductor, Sebastian Lang-Lessing, is impressively energetic, setting the tone for truly inspiring performances. Plus, the symphony now plays in the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which supposedly has incredible acoustics.

I encourage all of you to jump on the opportunity to experience some truly excellent classical performances, and the Strauss Festival provides an ideal opportunity to do so. Try broadening your musical horizons””you won’t regret it!