On Saturday, March 4, the St. Olaf Orchestra will hold its annual spring concert. This upcoming concert will host Jayce Ogren ’01 as a guest conductor, and Kelly Kaduce ’96 as the featured soprano soloist. The concert will feature two main orchestral works: “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss and “Symphony No. 2 in D. Major” by Jean Sibelius.
A native of Hoquiam, Wash., Ogren has been building a reputation as one of America’s finest young conductors in recent years. Ogren received a bachelor’s degree in composition from St. Olaf in 2001 and a master’s degree in conducting from the New England Conservatory in 2003.
Afterwards, he completed his postgraduate diploma in orchestral conducting at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under a Fulbright Grant. He was appointed by Franz Welser-Möst as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and music director of the Cleveland Youth Orchestra, where he finished his tenure in 2009.
As a composer, Ogren’s works have been performed at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music, the Brevard Music Center, the American Choral Directors Association Conference and the World Saxophone Congress. His “Symphonies of Gaia” has been performed by ensembles on three continents and is the title track on a DVD featuring the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.
A graduate of St. Olaf and Boston University, Kaduce has garnered critical acclaim nationally for her “plangent, amber-toned soprano, glamour girl looks and artless, affecting dramatic style,” according to Opera News. Her past engagements in the 2016–2017 season include Nedda in “I Pagliacci” with Virginia Opera, Liù in “Turandot” with Atlanta Opera, and a role debut as Desirée Armfeldt in Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” with Des Moines Metro Opera. Recently, she gained praise for her role as Wendy Torrance in Minnesota Opera’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Among her concert credits are Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2,” Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard,” Berg’s “Seven Early Songs” and Argento’s “Casa Guidi.”
Strauss’ inspiration for the “Four Last Songs” came from Josef von Eichendorff’s poem, “Im Abendrot (In the Evening Glow).” Eichendorff’s words perfectly suited his world-weary, post-war frame of mind, which Strauss turned into an orchestral song in May 1948, a year before his death in 1949. Commenting on his composition work, Sibelius remarked that the “Symphony No. 2 in D Major” reflects on “a struggle between death and salvation,” as well as “a confession of the soul.” Sibelius began to work on the piece in 1901 in Rapallo, Italy and finished it a year later in Finland.