I remember the first moment I heard Sasha Cooke sing. Classical MPR has had a long fruitful relationship with Music@Menlo and this year the festival offered free downloads of the past summer's concerts.
I was helping load the audio onto our website and listened to this very young-looking woman sing Barber and Britten with a maturity and depth that made me weep.
While sopranos often get the best parts and sparkle with their virtuosity and acrobatic dexterity in the stratospheric registers, the best mezzo-sopranos (literally 'middle soprano') can generate a kind of tone that conjures up our mothers rocking us to sleep or the kindest teacher we knew or a friend who loves us unconditionally.
Sasha Cooke has this kind of voice.
And you can hear her from a front row seat when we broadcast live the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra this Saturday.
Sasha Cooke - along with American tenor William Burden - will sing some of the most stirring music in the repertoire. A cycle of songs with orchestra that Gustav Mahler surmised were the most personal compositions he had created.
Das Lied von der Erde - The Song of the Earth - is based on a book by Hans Bethge, 'The Chinese Flute.' What Mahler found in Chinese poetry was a sense of rootlessness and "otherness" that he - as a Jew living in Austria - could identify with.
As well, there is a sense of impending doom - a heightened awareness of one's mortality - that echoed Mahler's own realization of his time on this earth running out.
While Mahler wrote the work for two singers and large orchestra, Arnold Schoenberg fashioned a beautifully subtle and successful arrangement for chamber orchestra and that is what we'll hear in the live broadcast this Saturday evening at 8:00 with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Edo de Waart starts his Artistic Partnership with the orchestra this season and will begin this program with a work by Austrian composer Franz Schreker - the most oft performed opera composer after Strauss. He wrote his Chamber Symphony in between projects and it remains his most popular work.