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Gary Liam Scott

Perhaps success is the best revenge. The August 22 Gesher Music Festival performance at the 560 Music Center amply demonstrated the remarkable accomplishment of “degenerate” composers who fled Nazism yet achieved success in Hollywood.

Chamber music today is one of the most innovative and diverse of all musical art forms.  In only five years, the Gesher Music Festival—from the Hebrew “bridge”—has established itself as a leader both locally and beyond as a creative hub for the cross currents of Jewish and all forms of chamber music.

In its 68-year history the Artist Presentation Society has helped launch the careers of a vast array of instrumentalists and singers, yet not until the current season has a harpist been selected as a recipient of its coveted sponsorship. Memphis-born Molly O’Roark, an alumna of Eastman and a graduate student at the University of Illinois, mounted a program showcasing the wide diversity of styles and techniques of this ancient instrument whose evolution harkens back almost to the dawn of human history.

Few composers have generated as much fascination as Richard Wagner (1820-1883)--or as much controversy. Even today his music continues to impact film scores, writers and visionaries.

Russian composers have always painted with bold strokes on broad canvases. This weekend the St. Louis Symphony, under the direction of the distinguished Austrian conductor Hans Graf, exhibited a kaleidoscopic display of a small portion of the magnificence of the Russian repertoire.

The rush of winter winds, the clap of thunder, the pounding of rain, the buzzing of insects, the barking of a dog, the slipperiness of ice, the languor of summer, the singing of not just one bird, but multiple species—all these were engraved into Antonio Vivaldi’s remarkable set of violin concertos dating from 1725, “The Four Seasons.” Today we take them for granted, and even the least musically educated among us know them, but in their day these four short concertos brought the Baroque period to a higher level of innovation and creativity.

Arguably today more than ever, the voice of the cello is impacting music of all styles, from classical to jazz to alternative rock. Its strength and humanity, as well as its remarkable range, move the soul of the listener from deep within. One of the principal exponents of the cello today is Daniel Lee, the brilliant young Korean-American musician who has made St. Louis his home since assuming the post of Principal Cello of the St. Louis Symphony in 2005.

Great composers are great because they have important things to say. But it takes a great conductor and great musicians to fully express the composer's ideas. Fortunately, the St. Louis Symphony delivered mightily in all three areas this weekend.

Kicking off its eighth season, Winter Opera staged its first Mozart opera, "Le Nozze di Figaro." The company's rendition of Mozart's tapestry of love, trickery and royal buffoonery bubbled onstage like champagne, bursting from a fountain of melodies.

Although the program opened with a piece entitled "Landscape" by Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), it seemed as though the "Symphony No. 1" by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) led the listener into an internal, uncharted landscape all its own.   The energy that invigorates the works of the great Scandinavian composers exerts an uncanny ability to transport audiences as though they were on a steamer or train touring the vast mountains, forests and fjords of northern Europe.

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