"The Germans," observed the great violinist Joseph Joachim, "have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising, is Beethoven's. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart's jewel, is Mendelssohn's."
This weekend brought electrifying performances of a pair of 19th century classics: Max Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1" and Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique." Rounding out the concerts was a bit of old Bach wine in new bottles by Cindy McTee, whose "Double Play" was such a delightful discovery last January.
As I wrote in a previous post, it's a musical doubleheader at the St. Louis Symphony this weekend: the regular series concerts on Friday and Sunday with Leonard Slatkin, the orchestra, and violin soloists Celeste Golden Boyer and David Halen; and the annual "Red Velvet Ball" fundraiser concert on Saturday night with David Robertson conducting and international celebrity pianist Lang Lang in the solo spot. Here's a preview of the latter.
Parking for Friday morning's all-Tchaikovsky concert by the St. Louis Symphony was an adventure, and not just because of the rain. An unusually large crowd jammed parking lots and the Powell Hall lobby. Blame the late Russian composer; his music never fails to draw a crowd.
"The overture will be very loud and noisy, but I wrote it with no warm feeling of love, and so it will have no artistic merits at all." That was Tchaikovsky complaining to his patron Nadezhda von Meck about the piece that closes St. Louis Symphony's all-Tchaikovsky concerts this weekend, "The Year 1812, festival overture in E-flat major," Op. 49.
"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’s a mix of the first run and the familiar this weekend at Powell Hall, with music of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
The late eighteenth century artistic movement known as sturm und drang (usually translated as "storm and stress") had already evolved into the pervading sensibility of the Romantic era by the time the earliest work on this weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts—the "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Brahms—was written. But "storm and stress" of one sort or another lie at the heart of it and the other two pieces on the program.
Sturm und drang (usually translated as "storm and stress") was an early Romantic (late 18th century) movement in German literature and music that emphasized drama and conflict. Both Haydn and Mozart wrote symphonies that were seen as embodying the movement's approach.