Phil Burkhart: Week of great music begins this weekend

Published 6:04 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

As you may have heard, there is a special event coming up in our community featuring  performances by both our hometown Austin Symphony and one of the greatest orchestras in  the world, the Minnesota Orchestra. 

Orchestra Week, as we are calling it, actually began on Friday, with a free recital by our guest artist, dramatic soprano Alexandra Loutsian, a rising star in the opera world. She has been called “fearless” and “masterful” for her performances with Chicago Lyric Opera and other opera companies throughout the United  States. Alexandra performed a wide variety of songs about love as expressed through history. They span all styles, from classical to pop. The recital took place at Our  Saviours Lutheran Church and she was accompanied by piano. 

Orchestra Week continues with the Austin Symphony performing “Drama and Democracy” on  Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. in Knowlton Auditorium. The word “Drama” refers to the first half of the  program which will feature Loutsian performing selections from Richard Wagner’s group of four operas called the Ring Cycle. These operas are based on the same legends as JRR Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings.” 

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A magic ring is stolen from the Rhine Maidens, which leads to abuse of power with tragic consequences. Ms. Loutsian, as the heroine Brunhilde, sings the Liebestod (“Love-Death”), which expresses her sorrow over the death of Siegfried, the hero.  

She will conclude her part of the program with the Immolation Scene, which ends the entire  Ring Cycle. In this powerful song Brunhilde sacrifices herself on a pyre of flame and the reign  of the gods comes to an end as Valhalla falls in ruin.  

The second half of the program features the Austin Symphony Chorus, directed by Sonia  Larson, performing two works with orchestra – Schubert Mass G and Song of Democracy by  Howard Hanson. The Schubert is a beautiful rendition of the Mass in a Classical style with  Romantic undertones that is typical of Schubert. The soloists are Jessica Camp, Morgan  Dickman, Nate Bertelson and Bradley Carlton. The Song of Democracy is based on a poem by Walt Whitman. With both dark and brilliant imagery, it inspires a powerful patriotic pride. Tickets for this performance are $20 if purchased beforehand from Hy-Vee, Coffeehouse on  Main or online at Tickets at the door are $25. Youth through  college age are free.  

Orchestra Week continues the following week with performances in the community and at schools by members of the Minnesota Orchestra. It concludes with a performance by the Minnesota Orchestra on Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in Knowlton Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and are available at Sweet Reads, Coffee House on Main, Hy-Vee and at the door. The complete schedule can be found at

 Common Chords is the local group which has been  working hard to make this event a success. I would encourage everyone to consult the  schedule of performances and attend as many as possible since such an opportunity is truly  once in a lifetime.