The story of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” has had a lasting cultural impact.
Many literary critics and authors consider the classic book by the 17th-century Spanish writer to be the first modern novel, with an immense influence on language that continues to the present day. Consider the expression “tilting at windmills” or the word “quixotic.”
“Don Quixote” and Cervantes’s dramatic life also have inspired other works in many artistic genres – including short stories, novels, ballets, operas, classical music pieces, plays, films, and of course, the hit Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”
Among the classical music pieces that have drawn inspiration from “Don Quixote” is the eponymous tone poem by Richard Strauss for cello, viola, and orchestra, which will be part of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s program for their Oct. 21 concert at the Music Center at Strathmore.
BSO has performed at Strathmore since the center opened in 2005.
Dariusz Skoraczewski, the orchestra’s principal cellist and the soloist for the concert, called Strauss’s tone poem “one of the major concertos in the cello repertoire.”
“I’m really excited to be able to play it,” Skoraczewski said. “It is a large composition of about 40 minutes, which requires extended orchestral instrumentation as well as virtuosic abilities of the featured instruments… The music ranges from heroic to silly, from virtuosic to most tender and beautiful, and this is one of my favorite pieces to perform.”
In the tone poem, the solo cello represents the aging, addled Quixote, 400 years too late in his quest to be a knight-errant, while the solo viola represents his faithful but sometimes skeptical “squire,” Sancho Panza.
The tenor tuba and bass clarinet depict other characters, said BSO’s interim artistic administrator Miryam Yardumian.
“This piece is written in the form of a theme and variations,” Yardumian said. “The introduction depicts Don Quixote losing his sanity. There are 13 variations in total, and the finale finds him coming to his senses again.”
Baltimore Symphony’s guest conductor Jun Markl will oversee the concert, which opens with a piece reflecting a very different mood – Camille Saint-Saens’s “Danse Macabre.”
“The legend tells us of ‘Death,’ who appears every year at midnight on Halloween playing his fiddle,” said Yardumian. “The xylophone represents the sound of rattling bones that dance until dawn.”
Jonathan Carney, BSO concertmaster and first violinist, will play the fiddle.
Also on the program is Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 21, whose slow movement is better known to many as the theme music of the Swedish film “Elvira Madigan.”
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra started life in 1916 as a branch of the Baltimore municipal government, and then reorganized as a private institution in 1942.
The symphony made musical history in September 2007, when Maestra Marin Alsop led her inaugural concerts as music director. She was the first woman to head a major American orchestra.
In addition to the Strathmore concerts, the BSO offers several programs in Montgomery County for children of different age groups.
The Music Box Series comprises highly interactive programs for babies and toddlers 6 months to 3 years and their families and held this season at the Civic Building in Silver Spring. Each concert also includes 30 minutes of pre-concert activities.
BSO on the Go places select BSO musicians in County elementary schools (including Title I schools). These interactive programs take place in a more intimate classroom setting that encourages students and musicians to engage one another.
In partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools, BSO’s OrchLab program enriches the instrumental music curriculum and enhances student performance skills, among other services.
BSO conducts the music-in-schools program at no cost at selected County elementary, middle and high schools that serve high numbers of students in poverty.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs locally at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda. For more information, contact: www.bsomusic.org.