‘The Romantics Wagner & Liszt’ at The In Series

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The In Series self-described salon-style concert tribute is a celebration of musical mastery – from the two composers featured to the pianists and singers – The Romantics Wagner & Liszt is an impressive show.

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The Hungarian Franz Liszt and German Richard Wagner were contemporaries, but most don’t realize they were also friends and frequent collaborators. The show features many of their shorter works, several songs of poetry set to music, but also dips into Wagner’s opera repertoire. Karin Rosnizeck served as Narrator and Host.

Pianist Carlos Rodriquez. Photo by Don Lassell.

Pianist Carlos Rodriquez. Photo by Don Lassell.

Carlos César Rodríguez on the piano solos on four pieces, from the soft and sweet “Sposalizio” (Marriage) to the keyboard-spanning crescendos of “Tarantella” both by Liszt. He says the composer has been known as a piano breaker, but this one at the Casa Italiana held together for the famous “Liebestod” from Tristan & Isolde, written by Wagner but adapted for piano by Liszt.

Tenor Peter Burroughs. Photo by Theo Kossenas.

Tenor Peter Burroughs. Photo by Theo Kossenas.

He is joined for a pair of Petrarca’s Sonnets by tenor Peter Burroughs, whose resonant voice matches the dramatic piano arpeggios and who can sell the unrequited love Petrarca constantly wrote about. One highlight is his piece from Das Rheingold, “Loge’s Soliloquy,” a clever piece with echoes of the famous motifs from the rest of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle.

The In Series Artistic Director Carla Hübner plays piano for five songs of poetry by Wagner’s muse Matilde Wesendonck, sung by Debra Lawrence. She has a classical soprano and an expressive delivery for the surprisingly modern sentiments of these powerful poems. One highlight was “Stehe Still!” (Stand Still), in which she implores the wheel of time to take a break, accompanied by whirling notes on the piano in Wagner’s classic marriage of music and meaning. The sweet, lyrical “Träume” (Dreams) is particularly suited to her voice.

These two composers revolutionized music as they know it and their influence is still felt over a century later. This is a not-to-be-missed chance to hear some of their lesser-known and more personal works sung and played by the best performers DC has to offer.

Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The Romantics Wagner & Liszt plays for one more performance today- Sunday, April 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm,  at the In Series performing at Casa Italiana – 595 1/2 Third Street, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 204-7763, or purchase them online.

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