One of the miracles of an ensemble that works as tirelessly as the St. Louis Symphony is its ability to perform not just in the classical mode, but in a plethora of genres. This was demonstrated once again on December 14-15 when the Symphony presented a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”, immediately on the heels of the “Gospel Messiah” and the Bach “Christmas Oratorio”. The ability of these musicians to continually don new musical garb, so to speak, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Powell Hall generated enough heat to light up the entire city December 12-13 with performances of “Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah”, invigorated by the combined talents of soprano Cynthia Renee Saffron, mezzo La Tanya Hall, tenor Thomas Young, the St. Louis Symphony and the SLSO IN UNISON Chorus, guided by the hands of Kevin McBeth.
Now in its 67th year of showcasing brilliant young performers from our region, the Artist Presentation Society continues to dazzle local audiences with the diversity and depth of talent nurtured here in the Midwest. The current season opened on Sunday, November 10, featuring Kansas City-based flutist (flautist? ) Karen Hauge, accompanied by pianist Daniel Velicer.
So how does one make the standard piano concerto format more innovative? By adding a second solo instrument, of course. That is precisely how Dmitry Shostakovich emboldened his Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor. The result is a neo-classically inspired work that is at once brash and refined, carefully laid out yet unpredictable.
When the German drama and Romanticism of Beethoven and Richard Strauss are infused with the Gallic charm of guest conductor Stephane Deneve, combined with the work of young American composer Patrick Harlin, the result is a remarkable audience appeal that not only endeared the composers and performers to listeners, but enhanced their appreciation and understanding.
Throughout its history, the Catholic Mass has inspired composers from every conceivable background, Catholic or not, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who was Lutheran, Leonard Bernstein, a Jew, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber. On May 18, the Cathedral Concerts series capped its 2012-2013 season with a rousing performance of Anton Bruckner’s monumental "Mass in F Minor" at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
Just as I was thinking that a concert devoted to American music would be incomplete without including a work by Samuel Barber, I arrived at Powell Hall to discover that—sadly—due to a soloist’s illness, Aaron Copland’s "Quiet City" would be replaced by Barber’s famous "Adagio for Strings". With fervent hopes for the soloist’s recovery, the inclusion of the Barber rounded out a program that was a veritable showcase of some of the many jewels of American music.
Although their program was themed “Bad Boys!”, the Gateway Men’s Chorus sang good March 15 and 16 at the 560 Music Center in University City. It was a fun program, visually exciting as well as a rhythm bash, but “fun” programs can challenge performers as equally as their more serious counterparts.
For over 200 years audiences have been captivated by the piano, and with good reason. A skilled performer can transform the instrument into a veritable orchestral palette of color, range, special effects and dynamics. Such was the case with the brilliant Chinese-born pianist Wuna Meng, a 2012 competition winner of the Artist Presentation Society, who performed on March 17 at the Ethical Society.
Its origins shrouded in the mists of time and centered within the region of Andalusia, flamenco music and dance has nevertheless enthralled audiences the world over throughout its history.