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.
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.
There are few things I love more than hearing a familiar work from the standard concert repertoire—one I’ve heard dozens of times in the past—performed in a way that makes it sound fresh and new. That, for me, is great music making.
One might ask why a good Lutheran boy like J. S. Bach would choose to compose a Catholic Mass, let alone infuse it with the very essence of his genius. But more importantly, we should see the Mass in B minor not as a tribute to any one religious path, but as a monument to the spiritual yearnings of all people, regardless of their faith.
The symphony is super-sized this weekend, with a longer than usual program. The two and one-half hour concert has a decidedly Baroque/Classical/Neoclassical orientation, with music ranging chronologically from Baroque to contemporary and stylistically from Mozart to Martinů.
Editor's note: 57 years ago this month, Pablo Casals, at the age of 77, gave a remarkable performance from Bach's legendary "Cello Suites" in an ancient abbey in France. The recital was filmed, resulting in a rare document of the maestro.