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Take a "Stairway to Heaven" with Kentucky Symphony

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra takes a "Stairway to Heaven" for its November 21 concert.

No, it’s not about a lady who’s sure that all that glitters is gold. We’re talking about Heaven – as envisioned by two of the great classical composers whose work demands a full symphony (80 members strong) and a full evening (65 minutes) of Anton Bruckner and a “snippet” of Richard Wagner.

Both composers offer reverent or spiritual associations in the works on the KSO program.

The KSO will perform Bruckner for the first time with his Symphony No. 7. “Bruckner was a very pious Catholic who felt that he composed music via the inspiration of God,” Cassidy explains. “He was also a fan of Wagner’s music. The two men met at the premiere of Parsifal, just weeks prior to Wagner’s death.”

Cassidy believes that of all of Bruckner’s 10 symphonies, the Seventh is the most accessible on a first hearing. “Yes, it is lengthy, but it incorporates four Wagner tubas (rarely seen/heard instruments) and beautiful themes and structure. As people listen, returning tunes become familiar. With this program we are using HD video cameras to capture different sections of the orchestra and project them live above the orchestra on three screens, to direct the listener’s eye as well as ear.”

Wagner’s epic opera Parsifal, based on King Arthur’s 12th-century quest for the Holy Grail, opens the program with the excerpt “Good Friday Spell” conducted by KSO associate conductor Thomas Consolo. He is a charter member of the KSO, holding the principal second violin chair (and has been author of KSO concert program notes since 1992.)

Here’s a tempting taste of Conosolo’s terrific notes for the upcoming concert:

Of the great classical composers, none is as paradoxical as Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner. Born 11 years and 230 miles apart, they were personally as different as could be, yet both fearlessly broke new musical ground with an eye cast far into the past. For Bruckner, the vehicle was the symphony, a traditional form he reinvented in part with inspiration from Wagner’s music. A more unlikely musical revolutionary would be hard to imagine. 

You’ll want to hear, see and read more.

"Stairway to Heaven", 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion, 642 Mt. Zion Rd., Florence. Tickets: $19-$35, children ages 6-18 half-price. Available at kyso.org, 859-431-6216 and at the door.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts