It was a case of saving the best for last this weekend as the St. Louis Symphony concluded its four-week "Beethoven Festival" with stunning performances by guest conductor Jaap van Zweden of the Fifth symphonies of Beethoven and a composer who greatly admired Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich.
The St. Louis Symphony's "Beethoven Festival" concludes this weekend with Beethoven's Greatest Hit, the "Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67." In an ingenious bit of programming, it's paired with another fifth: the "Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 47," composed in 1937 by Dmitri Shostakovich. Jaap van Zweden conducts.
The recent performance by the St. Louis Symphony of Brahms' monumental "Symphony No. 4" marked not just a performance event, but proved once again that the SLSO is perhaps the most cogent and vital music educator in our community.
Dutch violinist-turned-conductor Jaap van Zweden is one of those performers whom I know entirely from recordings, so I looked forward with some anticipation to seeing him in person conducting the St. Louis Symphony this weekend. I was not disappointed. A brusque, no-nonsense type whose gestures are precise and highly focused, he nevertheless appeared to be passionately engaged with both the music and the musicians. As a result, he and the orchestra did equal justice to both the dark and demon-haunted Violin Concerto No. 1 of Shostakovich and the unabashedly romantic Symphony No. 2 of Rachmaninoff.