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.
The title of Friday's St. Louis Symphony concert said it all: "Music You Know." Presented by The Whittaker Foundation, the evening probably was, for the many of those in attendance, something of a reunion with old friends.
Although the program opened with a piece entitled "Landscape" by Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), it seemed as though the "Symphony No. 1" by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) led the listener into an internal, uncharted landscape all its own. The energy that invigorates the works of the great Scandinavian composers exerts an uncanny ability to transport audiences as though they were on a steamer or train touring the vast mountains, forests and fjords of northern Europe.
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.
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.
This weekend Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony are offering a pair of symphonies which, while originating in vastly different musical and cultural worlds, still have their roots in a love of nature and the sense of renewal that comes with spring.
Franz Schubert died at age 31 and Mozart never made it to 36. So their music will always have the freshness and enthusiasm of youth.
"Music of a Bygone Era"
Back before the advent of recorded sound, when a home music system was the piano in the parlor, the odds were good that said piano would be accompanied by one or more bound volumes of short pieces intended for amateur performance. They might contain anything from bagatelles by Beethoven or humoresques by Dvorak to occasional pieces by lesser composers to arrangements of popular songs.