This weekend brought electrifying performances of a pair of 19th century classics: Max Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1" and Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique." Rounding out the concerts was a bit of old Bach wine in new bottles by Cindy McTee, whose "Double Play" was such a delightful discovery last January.
When pianist Conrad Tao appeared with the SLSO in February of 2013—as a last-minute replacement for an ailing Markus Groh—I described him as a tremendously talented young man at the beginning of what looked like a very promising career. This weekend Mr. Tao (who is still not 20 years old) validated that judgment with a Saint-Saëns "Piano Concerto No. 2" that was a model of power and delicacy.
"There is no doubt about it—this is the greatest American symphony!" Thus (according to the 28 October 1946 issue of "Time") spake Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitsky after conducting the first performance of Aaron Copland's "Symphony No. 3." Was he right?
When the phrase “inside baseball” pops up in the performing arts, it usually refers to a work that assumes some additional knowledge on the part of the audience in order to be fully appreciated. The jokes in many of the Hoffnung Music Festival recordings, for example, take it for granted that the audience is pretty familiar with the standard classical repertoire.
Former Music Director Leonard Slatkin, who led the St. Louis Symphony during what was possibly its period of highest international visibility, made a triumphant return visit to Powell Hall this weekend. He led the band he referred to as "my family" and glamorous virtuoso pianist Olga Kern in a highly satisfying program. There was a sublime Fratres by Arvo Pärt, starring the symphony strings; rapid-fire Rachmaninov essay writing service with the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; and a highly charged reading of Prokofiev's powerful Symphony No. 5. There was even a quirky encore at the end.