The first offering of the evening, which for some unexplained reasons, started at 6 p.m. instead of the usual 8 p.m., is Franz Liszt's 4th tone poem, Orpheus, first performed in 1854. It was inspired by the Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, which Liszt conducted in Weimar and for which he wrote an introductory piece. Liszt says that he recalls an image of Orpheus in an Etruscan vase he once saw at the Louvre in which Orpheus was portrayed as a "poet-musician" with power to move the hearts of beasts and men. Some believe that Liszt was inspired by the image of Orpheus as the initiator of law to civilize a new Europe in the 9-volume Orphée(1829), by the French philosopher Pierre-Simon Ballanche. In this piece, Orpheus's lyre is portrayed by two harps and is a rather contemplative piece, full of atmospheric effects.
(1) "Der Held" (The Hero) where the hero theme is represented by the horns and cellos
(2) "Des Helden Widersacher" (The Hero's Adversaries) where his adversaries are represented the woodwinds and tuba
(3) "Des Helden Gefährtin" (The Hero's Companion) which he admitted is his slightly perverse, coquesttish and ever changing wife Pauline de Ahna, represented by the first violin
(4) "Des Helden Walstatt" (The Hero at Battle) , the battle being suggested by off stage trumpets, drum rolls, timpani etc.
(5) "Des Helden Friedenswerke" (The Hero's Works of Peace) in which after the battle, the hero reviews his life, represented by dozens of quotations from Strauss' own earlier works eg. Guntram (8 times), his symphonic poems Don Quixote (5 times), Don Juan (4 times), Death and Transfiguration (4 times), Macbeth (3 times), Also sprach Zarathustra (3 times) and Till Eulenspiegel , the lieder "Traum durch die Dämmerung", Op 29/1 and "Befreit", Op 39/1, once each.
(6) "Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung" (The Hero's Retirement from this World and Consummation) where there's an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings and some pastoral scenes and then some further variation of the original motif in E flat major before concluding with a brass fanfare.
I don't know what others think. To me, Christian Thieleman's conducting style is rather too restrained, especially in the two pieces before the intermission. Perhaps that may have something to do with the nature of the materials he is dealing with: all rather personal and intimate. I'd much rather he gave slightly more emphasis to some motifs more than others instead of trying to be equally "fair" to all. That way, he risks the music being without mini-troughs and by the same token, without mini-peaks, without too much contrast and consequently flatter than it could otherwise have been : after all, he's dealing with romantic composers, not classical baroque composers. He hasn't got the decisive lines of a Carlos Kleiber nor the meticulous articulation of the texture of the instruments of each section of the orchestra of a Celibadache. But then, he may have chosen to be himself rather than someone else's double or imitation. He did however try to be more lively the second part of the concert and in his encore piece, "The Ride of the Valkyries" which is slightly more "fiery" than his previous pieces.