"An Experiment in Modern Music" was how bandleader Paul Whiteman billed the February 12, 1924 concert by his Palais Royal Orchestra at New York's Aeolian Hall. This weekend at Powell Hall, the St. Louis Symphony will recapture some of the excitement attendant on that legendary program.
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.
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.
The title of this Friday's St. Louis Symphony concert says it all: "music you know." For the overwhelming majority of classical music lovers, this will be an evening with old friends.
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.
This weekend’s St. Louis Symphony program, conducted by David Robertson, was brilliantly crafted to illustrate “Mortality, Memory, Mastery” (mastery in this case indicating transcendence and overcoming death). Listeners may or may not have agreed with the linking of three such disparate works on the program, but all would probably agree that the program provided much food for thought.
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.
If you're going to bring in a singer as a last-minute substitute, it's good to have one like tenor Nicholas Phan, who has clearly internalized the music and made it his own. His performance of Britten's song cycle "Les Illuminations" with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Friday night was—well—luminous. So was Marc-André Dalbavie's ethereally lovely "La Source d'un regard," a 2007 work getting its local premiere. The evening closed with a bold and dramatic Tchaikovsky "Symphony No. 5" which was not to be missed.