posted September 30, 2009

Orchestra Concert Includes Strauss Commemoration

With September 2009 having marked the 60th anniversary of the death of composer Richard Strauss, the forthcoming orchestra concert at Hope College will include a commemoration shaped by unique personal experience.

The college's orchestra will perform its first concert of the season on Friday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.  The public is invited, and admission is free.

The program will include the "Four Last Songs" composed by Strauss, featuring guest artist Linda LeFever Dykstra of the Hope faculty as soloist.  The training and experiences that will inform her performance include having met and sung for Strauss's son and daughter-in-law in the late composer's own study in Germany.

Dykstra, a lyric soprano, was appointed to the Hope voice faculty in 1997. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees were earned at the University of Maryland, and her post-graduate voice study has been with Thomas Houser and Jim Turner.

In addition, some 30 years ago she studied in Germany with Dr. Jürgen Völlkers, who had known Strauss, who lived from 1864 to 1949, and was friends with his only son, Franz Strauss, and Franz's wife Alice. Dykstra was eventually asked to perform some of Strauss' work for the son and his wife, who then shared with her some stories about Strauss' work. She performed, accompanied by her teacher on Strauss' own piano, in the family villa at the foot of the Alps. Her experience strengthened her life-long love of Strauss' work.

"After each song, Herr and Frau Strauss would offer bits of information about the song; they told us that 'Meinem Kinde' had been composed by Strauss as he bent over the cradle of his newborn son - the frail, elderly man for whom I was singing - and of little phrases from the songs that the composer would use in everyday life," Dykstra recalled.

"When our little recital was over, Frau Strauss took us into a little antechamber in which much Strauss memorabilia was displayed - his baton, letters from Puccini and Wagner, scores and recordings, etc.," she said.  "She produced the Strauss guest book, and we paged through it, seeing names of composers and musicians.  Imagine how thrilled I was to be asked to sign it!  Herr and Frau Strauss, in turn, signed my volume of Strauss songs.  To this day, that day holds a very special place in my heart."

The orchestra's concert has been scheduled in conjunction with the college's Homecoming Weekend.  The concert program will open with Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel Overture," followed by Strauss' "Four Last Songs."  The program will close with Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 2."

The orchestra is directed by Richard Piippo of the Hope music faculty, who is an associate professor of cello/chamber music at the college. Piippo has taught at Hope since 1999.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., on College Avenue at 12th Street.