Unless you've been holed up on the dark side of the moon lately, you've probably noticed that 2014 is the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis. As a glance at the STL250 web site clearly shows, local celebrations of the event are popping up all over. This weekend the St. Louis Symphony is doing its part with a program that includes works composed between 1763 and 1792, including a Haydn symphony that's almost exactly the same age as our fair city.
When guest conductor Bernard Labadie takes the podium this weekend, he'll be leading a noticeably downsized St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. But never fear; nobody has been sacked. It's just that he's conducting a program of music written between 1763 and 1792, back when both orchestras and the halls in which they played were substantially smaller than they are now.
Nicholas McGegan, who is conducting the St. Louis Symphony in a program of (mostly) 18th-century classics this weekend, is clearly a man who enjoys his work. As he bounded out to the podium for this morning's Krispy Kreme Coffee Concert, his face alight with a cherubic smile, his body language was saying: "this is going to be FUN!" And so it was.
This weekend’s St. Louis Symphony concerts are a mix of the familiar and the exotic—or at least, what was seen as exotic in the 18th century.
Violinist Anthony Marwood just might have been the hardest-working man in (classical) show business in a series of all-Mozart concerts this weekend as he took on the roles of conductor, soloist, and (except in the “Violin Concerto No. 3”) concertmaster.
Mozart, as they used to say over at Variety, is clearly “boffo” with St. Louis Symphony audiences. The crowd at Friday morning’s concert was larger than usual and obviously appreciative of Bernard Labadie’s vibrant readings of Mozart’s 33rd and 40th symphonies, as well as with Principal Clarinet Scott Andrew’s elegant work in the "Clarinet Concerto, K. 622".
The St. Louis Symphony Chorus and their director Amy Kaiser covered themselves with glory Friday night with powerful performances of Schoenberg's "Friede auf Erden" ("Peace on Earth", a fiercely difficult piece for a cappella chorus from 1907) and the Mozart/Süssmayr "Requiem" under the baton of Jun Märkl. In between, Daniel Lee demonstrated once again what top-notch cello playing sounds like in Haydn's D major concerto.
Would we still be doing "Cosi fan Tutte" if it didn't have music by Mozart? Sure, Da Ponte’s libretto has a cynical modern edge, but its casual sexism is pretty grating to a contemporary audience.
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.