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Gary Liam Scott

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.

The Artist Presentation Society unswervingly continues its long tradition of bringing to our attention brilliant young performers from every corner of our region.  This season, five stellar artists will shine upon the stage of the Ethical Society.

As if the task of directing a symphony orchestra plus full chorus and soloists weren’t challenging enough, guest conductor Markus Stenz had to deal with Ferguson protestors who disrupted a performance of the Brahms “German Requiem” just as his baton lifted in the air.  Stenz remained steadfast and focused, however, and quickly recaptured the audience and performers as he navigated a performance of one of the most beautiful works in the classical repertoire.

This weekend’s St. Louis Symphony  program, conducted by David Robertson,  was brilliantly crafted to illustrate “Mortality, Memory, Mastery” (mastery in this case indicating transcendence and overcoming death).  Listeners may or may not have agreed with the linking of three such disparate works on the program, but all would probably agree that the program provided much food for thought.


Pianist Margaret Peterson, a professor of mine years ago, once observed that great musicians are great regardless of what instrument they play.  Doug Niedt is one of those rare musicians whose talent transcends any limitations.  Although thoroughly committed to his chosen instrument, the classical guitar, he infuses every note with a vibrancy and color that defy any limitations.

What is it about the music of Richard Wagner—a composer admittedly stained by insularity, prejudice, bitterness and resentment—that continues to tug at every fiber of the human heart?

To criticize Andre Previn, the German-born American composer, pianist, conductor and jazz performer, would seem the height of folly.

Although both Jean Sibelius and Dmitry Shostakovich are both products of the early and mid-20th century, many differences separate the two. Sibelius was more oriented towards traditional harmony and melody, whereas Shostakovich tilted at times to the atonality and abruptness that eventually became a tradition of its own by the end of the 20th century, and perhaps a trite one at that.

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