Colorado Springs Philharmonic
Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech
Date: March 18, 2017
Enchanted Landscapes: A Symphonic Poem
Of all the commissioned pieces for the 90th season of the Philharmonic, I thought this was one of the stronger pieces. While it didn’t have any of the musical motifs of the original “America the Beautiful,” it had an inspiration all its own that conveyed the power of the original. Starting and ending in a somber tone, “Enchanted Landscapes” paints an auditory picture of a cloudy day on Pike’s Peak. Then, suddenly, a storm whips up! With thunder and lightning, wind and rain, the peaceful calm are broken by nature’s fury. Almost at once, quiet falls on the mountain as snow starts slowly fluttering down. Finally, the storm has passed, and all is quiet on the peak once more.
For a piece about death and dying, I found Brahms’ interpretation of this poem to be a little more high-energy than I was expecting. Gone are the lamentations of a life lost, replaced by the anger and fury at the inevitability that all of us eventually have to face. At moments, the piece is as reverent as “Ave Maria,” especially with the full chorale backing up the orchestra. There is no peace in this song, perhaps because the peace of God is not present in its refrain, replaced by the anguish of men who can do nothing to protect the ones they love from the cold embrace of death.
While I certainly appreciated not having to sit through the epic, five-act play that this incidental music was written for, I did enjoy the narration and lyrics that accompanied these songs from Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt.” Now I know there are words that accompany these songs! Despite not playing all of the incidental music Grieg wrote for this piece, the Philharmonic chose the best parts to help get the point of the plot across. Of course, the middle section of this piece is what most people will recognize. From “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to “Solveig’s Song,” with “Morning Mood” and “Arabian Dance” in between, these movements just reinforce that Grieg is one of my top three composers.