There are only two pieces on the program this Saturday and Sunday at the symphony, and even though they were written less than 60 years apart, the contrast between them is so stark that they might as well be from different worlds.
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra guest conductor (and fellow Rice University alum) James Gaffigan gave us a highly dramatic and immensely satisfying Mendelssohn "Symphony No. 3 in A minor," op. 56 ("Scottish"), Friday morning, along with an equally impassioned Brahms "Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra (Double Concerto)," op. 102. Symphony Concertmaster David Halen and Principal Cello Daniel Lee were the soloists in the Brahms, demonstrating that you don't have to fly in stars to get stellar performances.
This weekend (February 7-9) marks the return to the Powell Hall stage of Lucerne Symphony Chief Conductor (and fellow Rice University alum) James Gaffigan for a program of music by Mendelssohn and Brahms that puts two of the symphony's own in the spotlight.
This is another “twofer” week when it comes to St. Louis Symphony concerts. In addition to the regular series as Powell Hall on Friday and Saturday there’s a Pulitzer Series event on Wednesday at the Pulitzer Center for the Arts just west of Powell Hall. If you’ve never been to the Pulitzer Series, here’s a heads-up.
The St. Louis Symphony Chorus and their director Amy Kaiser covered themselves with glory Friday night with powerful performances of Schoenberg's "Friede auf Erden" ("Peace on Earth", a fiercely difficult piece for a cappella chorus from 1907) and the Mozart/Süssmayr "Requiem" under the baton of Jun Märkl. In between, Daniel Lee demonstrated once again what top-notch cello playing sounds like in Haydn's D major concerto.
If St. Louis Symphony Principal Cello Daniel Lee isn’t feeling extraordinarily pleased with himself right now, it must mean that his virtuosity is exceed only by his modesty.