In the hands of a lesser composer, "Aida" might have been a classic potboiler—cheap yard goods written on commission and quickly forgotten. But Verdi was a thoroughgoing man of the theatre with a keen sense of what worked on stage. Moreover, by the time he wrote "Aida" in 1870 he was a mature artist with a string of hits to his credit. The result is a work, in the words of British opera scholar Julian Budden, "in which the various elements—grandeur, exotic pictorialism, and intimate poetry—are held in perfect equilibrium and from which not a single note can be cut."
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.
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.
This weekend's classical "double header" continues as David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony in the music of Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and James MacMillan on Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15.