If you missed last week's big double dip of Russian romanticism or if (to quote a famous Big Band-era lyric) you just "can't get enough of that wonderful stuff," the St. Louis Symphony has another helping helping of it for you this weekend as Hans Graf leads the orchestra and violinist Augustin Hadelich in a program of Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Lyadov.
The young (late 30s) Slovenian conductor Juraj Valcuha came to town for his SLSO debut this weekend with a stack of impressive reviews from locations as diverse as London, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. in repertoire ranging from Mozart to Brahms to Szymanowski. Critics have praised his big sound, his precision, and what the Los Angeles Times critic called "his eloquent and flowing baton gestures."
Works by two giants of the Russian romantic school are on the Powell Hall Stage this week as the St. Louis Symphony under guest conductor Juraj Valcuha takes on Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" in C Minor, Op. 18 (first performed in 1901) with famed pianist André Watts as soloist and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 6" in B minor, Op. 74 (a.k.a. the "Pathetique"), which had its first performance only eight years earlier.
The theme running through this weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts, as Daniel Durchholz writes in his program notes, is "ecstatic expression". Specifically, "the sensual delights of Debussy, the religious rapture found in the deep devotion of [Scottish composer James] MacMillan, and Dvořák’s reveling in the country comforts of his homeland." I think he's on to something there.
Sons who go into the family business are often less successful than their fathers. In the case of the J.S. Bach family, though, it was just the opposite. Four of the ten Bach children who survived to adulthood went on to careers as composers and the two represented in this weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts—Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788) and Johann Christian (1735-1782)—went on to eclipse dad in popularity, at least during their lives.
As anyone who has ever taken a "music depreciation" course knows, Johann Sebastian Bach was almost as prolific a father as he was a composer. This weekend, Nicholas McGegan leads the St. Louis Symphony in a concert that's a genuine Bach family affair, featuring music by both J.S. Bach and two of his musical sons.
This weekend two of the three works on the St. Louis Symphony program are making their first appearances on the Powell Hall Stage. That's not exactly news; the SLSO has given local audiences a good many local and even world premieres over the years. What's remarkable is that this time the local premieres are by Beethoven.
Have you ever wondered who comes up with those descriptive little subtitles that accompany so many notable compositions? I'm talking about Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, Mendelssohn's "Scotch" Symphony or the "Gypsy" rondo movement from Haydn's "Piano Trio No. 39"? The answer varies, but the one thing you can count on is that it probably wasn't the composer.
The Bach Society of St. Louis Christmas Candlelight Concert has been a St. Louis tradition since 1951 and, as this year's sold-out edition proved tonight, that tradition is grounded in fine musicianship and intelligent programming.
The Macy's Holiday Celebration concerts with the St. Louis Symphony have, of late, fallen into a pattern that's as familiar and cozy as a bulky red woolen sweater. This year, I'm happy to report, is no exception.