Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 13:41

Concert review: St. Louis Symphony boldly inaugurates a new season at Powell Hall, Friday, September 28

knightarts.org knightarts.org
Written by Gary Liam Scott
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Although themed as “The Virtuoso Orchestra,” opening weekend for the St. Louis Symphony on September 28-30 brought listeners much more than virtuosity—although artistic skill reigned throughout the evening.  The orchestra, under the helm of Music Director David Robertson, whisked the audience on a wide journey not just of sound, but of vibrant images culled from nature, history and the inner visions of great composers. 

Following the National Anthem, Robertson ignited the new season with the Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994).  Completed in 1954, the Concerto is already 58 years old, but it remains fresh and vibrant, redolent of the creative, yet often unrealized, promise of the iconoclastic composers of the 20th century.  Lutoslawski’s music is original and innovative, yet melodic and rhythmically phrased.  Listeners who are uncomfortable with contemporary music may find this a wonderful piece by which to increase their appreciation of the style.  One got the feeling that Lutoslawski’s desire was not to shock the audience so much as to show them a new way of expressing melody and emotion, perhaps somewhat as did Bartok and Prokofiev.  It was almost as though the waves of sound coming from the orchestra, some like mini-tsunamis, others like a quiet surf, bore the listeners across a sea passing by landscapes of lands not yet visited, but perhaps dreamed of. 

The second work on the program, also the creation of a Polish composer, sprang from the prolific pen of Frederic Chopin, the Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, with Polish-born pianist Emmanuel Ax as soloist.  One of the great masterpieces of the Romantic era, many lovers of this work are scarcely aware that it was completed in 1829, when the composer was only 19.  His too-short life would close in 1849, only 20 years later, but his imprint as a Romantic, and a musical innovator whose ideas perhaps are still not fully comprehended, will linger forever.

Although most concert-goers have heard this concerto many times, nevertheless Ax managed to impart a dramatic and sparkling spontaneity to the performance that eliminated any possibility of a routine or hackneyed delivery.  Ax played with perhaps more force than would many performers, but we know from Chopin’s own accounts that he wished his own playing could be more forceful and that the pianos of his day could have produced deeper and more resonant sounds.  Ax brought particular refinement to the middle movement, generally believed to have been intended as a love song, taking great care to outline Chopin’s remarkable twisting harmony that have grabbed the heartstrings of generations of listeners.  Likewise, the concluding movement fully embodied the capricious spirit of Polish folkdances, and there was no shortage of musical fireworks near the end. 

The concluding work on the program was a musical journey like no other.  Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome, first performed in 1924, captured the beauty and glory throughout history of Rome as no photograph ever could.  The four movements give us soundscapes of children playing, Christians treading lightly through the catacombs, the peace of nature in a forest, replete with a recording of the song of a nightingale accompanying the orchestra, and the imperial grandeur of the Roman army marching along the Appian Way. 

Robertson chose to station brass players in the balcony for the concluding movement, in addition to those who remained onstage.  The result was a “sense-surrounding” performance that completely enveloped the audience.  The relentless, thundering pounding of the soldiers’ feet as they marched was echoed in an unstoppable swell from the orchestra.  This was music at its most visceral.

Opening weekend at Powell Hall journeyed through love, war, nature, human longings, history, modernism, introspection, and numerous other vicissitudes of life on our planet.  A great harbinger of things to come, and a reminder of what we cherish in music.

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Karate Bikini - A Simpler Sugar

Wed November 26
Karate Bikini is an eight piece ensemble who's members hail from St. Louis and the metro area. They are a large band with a large sound. Their latest album A Simpler Sugar is full of upbeat pop songs,…

88.1 KDHX Shows

m-guitar.jpg

KDHX Recommends

January
Saturday
17

Recording Clinic with Patrick Crecelius

KDHX is proud to host a DIY mixing workshop for musicians at The Stage at KDHX. The clinic will be taught by Patrick Crecelius of Cedar Box Studio. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, his credits include such local artists as Ryan...


January
Sunday
18

88.1 KDHX Musical Merry-Go-Round Welcomes The Boogers

The Boogers are the brainchild of Dr. Paul Crowe. Fatherhood, a PhD in Developmental Psychology, and 20 years of sloggin' it in wretched clubs as a punk rocker - even opening for Dee Dee Ramone and Marky Ramone - formed Paul's...


February
Sunday
01

Discovery Series

The Discovery Series, a 10-event series spanning February to June, 2015, will not only bring you new music, but also music-focused interactive sessions that take a look at how music plays a role in our society. Each month the...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

2 users and 14268 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook