Opening night of Michael Tilson Thomas's remarkable "visualization" of Beethoven's towering "Missa Solemnis" with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, soloists, and the Pacific Boychoir last weekend (June 11-13, 2015) stirred up some real passion among us members of the Music Critics Association of North America, who were in town for our annual conference. Not all of it was positive.
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.
This weekend two of the three works on the St. Louis Symphony program are making their first appearances on the Powell Hall Stage. That's not exactly news; the SLSO has given local audiences a good many local and even world premieres over the years. What's remarkable is that this time the local premieres are by Beethoven.
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.
This weekend the St. Louis Symphony presents an all-Beethoven program with violin soloists Helen Kim and Xiaoxiao Qiang (from the SLSO strings) and pianist Orli Shaham. Ms. Shaham will be performing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1.” I had a brief chat with her via email regarding both the upcoming concert and her new CD “American Grace,” which features the music of John Adams and Stephen Mackey.
The St. Louis Symphony's "Beethoven Festival" concludes this weekend with Beethoven's Greatest Hit, the "Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67." In an ingenious bit of programming, it's paired with another fifth: the "Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 47," composed in 1937 by Dmitri Shostakovich. Jaap van Zweden conducts.
The symphony's "Beethoven Festival" continues this week with a powerful reading of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55," (the "Eroica") and brilliant performances of two new works composed by viola soloist Brett Dean, one of which is inspired by Beethoven.
This weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts continue the "Beethoven Festival" as David Robertson returns to the podium for the first time in the new year to conduct a newly minted viola concerto and two works directly related to Beethoven's famous 1802 "Heiligenstadt Testament." One—the "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55," known as the "Eroica"—is by Beethoven and the other by the composer of the viola concerto, Brett Dean. Neat bit of theme programming, that.
This weekend the second of the symphony’s four "Beethoven Festival" concerts brings us music of Beethoven, a younger contemporary of Beethoven, and a 20th century composer who acknowledged Beethoven as a major influence—all done up by guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada in that dramatic, late Romantic Austro-German style I associate with the recordings of Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer that were so much a part of my youth.
The "Beethoven Festival" continues this Friday through Sunday with what is probably his grandest piano concerto—the Fifth, known as the "Emperor Concerto"—along with a concerto of a very different sort from Béla Bartók and an overture to a failed Medieval fantasy opera by Carl Maria von Weber. Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts with piano soloist Louis Lortie.