You might have noticed that there's no Friday performance this weekend of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus concert version of Verdi's "Aida." That's because Friday is the last of the season's Whitaker Foundation "Music You Know" concerts. David Robertson is on the podium, SLSO cellist Alvin McCall is the soloist, and here's what you can expect.
The online version of the Oxford Dictionary defines a "potboiler" as a "book, painting, or recording produced merely to make the writer or artist a living by catering to popular taste." Verdi's 1871 opera "Aida," a concert version of which closes the St. Louis Symphony season this weekend, probably meets that definition to some extent since it started out as a purely commercial endeavor. But Verdi quickly became enthusiastic about the project, and "Aida" transcended its origins.
This is a big weekend for the Principal and Associate Principal players in the St. Louis Symphony (and even a couple of guests). The concerts begin with an orchestral suite from Bizet's massively popular 1875 opera "Carmen" and end with Ravel's even more massively popular "Bolero"—both works packed with solos for individual instruments.
To close out the current season, the St. Louis Symphony has put together three blockbuster concerts of music sure to appeal to just about anyone who loves the classics. It starts this weekend as David Robertson conducts works by Bizet, Debussy, Vaughan Williams, and Ravel.
It has been over two and one-half years since renowned pianist Emanuel Ax last appeared on the Powell Hall stage. Based on the stunning performance he and David Robertson gave us of the Brahms Second Concerto this past Sunday, that's at least two years too long. Combined with an impeccable version of Elgar's "Introduction and Allegro" and a new work by Detlev Glanert, it made for a thoroughly satisfying afternoon at the symphony.
April has been Big Piano Concerto Month at the St. Louis Symphony. Last week we had Rachmaninoff's daunting "Piano Concerto No. 3" . This week it's the equally intimidating "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major," Op. 83, written in 1881 by Brahms.
A pair of threes may not be a winning hand at the casino, but it paid off handsomely at Powell Hall Friday night with virtuoso performances by the St. Louis Symphony and guest conductor Vasily Petrenko of Scriabin's "Symphony No. 3," Op. 43 (1902-04) and, with soloist Simon Trpčeski, Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor," Op. 30 (1909) .
This weekend's St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concerts offer a pair of threes: Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3" and Scriabin's "Symphony No. 3" ("The Divine Poem"). Both were written during the first decade of the 20th century when their creators were in their thirties. Both composers were Russian Romantics who were prodigious pianists. And both made significant contributions to the literature for both piano and orchestra.
There was something vaguely disconcerting about leaving Powell Hall Friday morning after hearing the SLSO and guest conductor Hannu Lintu perform Shostakovich's harrowing 1943 "Symphony No. 8" in C minor. Walking out into that bright spring morning was a bit like suddenly waking up from a nightmare. For just a moment, the light seemed a little dimmer.
In the introduction to his essay writers chapter on Shostakovich in the 1967 Penguin Books edition of "The Symphony," British musicologist Robert Layton described the Russian symphonist somewhat dismissively as a "documentary composer, far more bound up with this time than...Prokofiev, or any other of his Soviet contemporaries."