The symphony's "Beethoven Festival" continues this week with a powerful reading of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55," (the "Eroica") and brilliant performances of two new works composed by viola soloist Brett Dean, one of which is inspired by Beethoven.
There are undoubtedly conductors who would approach a concert of John Williams film music as something of a necessary evil—the kind of superficial "pops" programming that draws crowds but offers little in the way of artistic value. None of them, however, would be named David Robertson.
It was cold and snowy outside Powell Hall this weekend, but inside it was all warmth and light as David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus unwrapped an early Christmas present in the form of the first three cantatas from Bach's "Christmas Oratorio."
It has been a heavy month or so for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. On November 16th they performed Britten 's dramatic Peter Grimes at Powell, followed by a repeat performance at Carnegie Hall on November 22nd, Britten 's centenary. At the same time they were rehearsing the first three cantatas of Bach 's 1734-35 Christmas Oratorio for concerts this Friday and Saturday (December 6 and 7) with David Robertson and the orchestra.
In case you thought music only got political in the 1960s, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. The great composers whose music fills concert halls these days were often very politically active and weren’t shy about expressing their politics in their music.
Writing in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, Donald Paine notes that Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem," written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, "may stand as representative of his genius and of the theme that recurs throughout his work: the indictment of human folly as it shows itself both in the tragedy and wastage of war and in the corruption of human innocence."
Before the first note sounded at Saturday night’s Red Velvet Ball fundraiser concert, the evening was already a success, in that it had raised over $600,000 for the symphony. In return for all that cash, the near-capacity crowd at Powell Hall got a solid evening of great music from the orchestra under David Robertson and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
As I wrote in a previous post, there are two St. Louis Symphony concerts this weekend: the regular concert series on Friday and Sunday with Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu on the podium and Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma as the soloist; and the annual "Red Velvet Ball" fundraiser concert on Saturday night with David Robertson conducting and celebrity cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the solo spot. Here's a preview of the latter.
Saturday night’s concert began with Gershwin's fiery "Cuban Overture" and ended with an appropriate Latin encore from pianist John Kimura Parker—Joplin's wistful "Solace: A Mexican Serenade". In between was a high-energy evening from which the spirit of jazz was never entirely absent.