In the hands of a lesser composer, "Aida" might have been a classic potboiler—cheap yard goods written on commission and quickly forgotten. But Verdi was a thoroughgoing man of the theatre with a keen sense of what worked on stage. Moreover, by the time he wrote "Aida" in 1870 he was a mature artist with a string of hits to his credit. The result is a work, in the words of British opera scholar Julian Budden, "in which the various elements—grandeur, exotic pictorialism, and intimate poetry—are held in perfect equilibrium and from which not a single note can be cut."
Two of the three works on this past weekend's St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concerts (the ones that aren't by James MacMillan) will also be on the bill when the orchestra performs in Carnegie Hall on Friday, March 20th. If what we heard Sunday afternoon is any indication, they'll be representing their home town proudly.
If the 1807 premiere of Beethoven's "Mass in C major" at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy had been as good as the performance we got from David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Friday night, the prince might have been less of a jerk with the composer afterwards.
"It's a major work," says St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser in the program notes for this weekend's concerts, "full of challenges: complex fugues, expressive segments, rich in harmonic details. It's a choral symphony, really." She's talking about the piece that takes up almost the entire program at Powell Hall, Brahms' "Ein deutches requiem" ("A German Requiem").
It was cold and snowy outside Powell Hall this weekend, but inside it was all warmth and light as David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus unwrapped an early Christmas present in the form of the first three cantatas from Bach's "Christmas Oratorio."
It has been a heavy month or so for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. On November 16th they performed Britten 's dramatic Peter Grimes at Powell, followed by a repeat performance at Carnegie Hall on November 22nd, Britten 's centenary. At the same time they were rehearsing the first three cantatas of Bach 's 1734-35 Christmas Oratorio for concerts this Friday and Saturday (December 6 and 7) with David Robertson and the orchestra.
Writing in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, Donald Paine notes that Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem," written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, "may stand as representative of his genius and of the theme that recurs throughout his work: the indictment of human folly as it shows itself both in the tragedy and wastage of war and in the corruption of human innocence."
As I have noted before, Ward Stare (who completed his tenure as Resident Conductor of the symphony in 2012 and is now in demand as both and operatic and symphonic conductor) is someone to watch.
If you’re a fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, this weekend’s showing of the first film in the series on the giant screen at Powell Hall with the St. Louis Symphony and the men of the Symphony Chorus performing the score live is an event you won’t want to miss.
The St. Louis Symphony closed out its current subscription season with yet another blockbuster program. Pianist Horacio Gutierrez soloed in Sergei Rachmaninov's ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2, and the Symphony was joined by the Symphony Chorus, soprano Christine Goerke and baritone Brett Polegato for the too-rarely-performed Sea Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Given the breadth, vision and diversity of musical though of each work, either would have made almost a complete program in itself, but guest conductor Robert Spano--on loan from Atlanta--brought both masterpieces to the capacity audiences assembled in Powell Hall.