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.
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.
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.
The schedule at Powell Hall was packed this weekend, with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony playing a Whitaker Foundation "Music You Know" concert on Friday and a pair of regular subscription concerts on Saturday and Sunday.
Sons who go into the family business are often less successful than their fathers. In the case of the J.S. Bach family, though, it was just the opposite. Four of the ten Bach children who survived to adulthood went on to careers as composers and the two represented in this weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts—Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788) and Johann Christian (1735-1782)—went on to eclipse dad in popularity, at least during their lives.
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.
We may never know who first applied the nickname "Jupiter" to Mozart's last symphony—American musicologist Daniel Heartz posits that it was impresario Johann Peter Salomon—but it's not hard to see why the name stuck.
The Bach Society of St. Louis Christmas Candlelight Concert has been a St. Louis tradition since 1951 and, as this year's sold-out edition proved tonight, that tradition is grounded in fine musicianship and intelligent programming.
The rush of winter winds, the clap of thunder, the pounding of rain, the buzzing of insects, the barking of a dog, the slipperiness of ice, the languor of summer, the singing of not just one bird, but multiple species—all these were engraved into Antonio Vivaldi’s remarkable set of violin concertos dating from 1725, “The Four Seasons.” Today we take them for granted, and even the least musically educated among us know them, but in their day these four short concertos brought the Baroque period to a higher level of innovation and creativity.
Looking for a Thanksgiving weekend treat that avoids the teeming multitudes at the malls and movie theaters? Take my advice and head over to Powell Hall for a bracing concert of American music for this most American of holidays.