This weekend’s St. Louis Symphony program, conducted by David Robertson, was brilliantly crafted to illustrate “Mortality, Memory, Mastery” (mastery in this case indicating transcendence and overcoming death). Listeners may or may not have agreed with the linking of three such disparate works on the program, but all would probably agree that the program provided much food for thought.
It’s a mix of the first run and the familiar this weekend at Powell Hall, with music of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu and Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma made triumphant returns to Powell Hall Friday night with an evening of dance-oriented music by Bartók, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky. The highly charged "Swan Lake" suite was the highlight for me, but the fact is that the whole program was most impressive.
This weekend the St. Louis Symphony is presenting two separate programs: 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. In this article I'll just deal with the regular series.
It’s every orchestra manager’s nightmare: just a few days before the scheduled performance of a virtuoso showpiece the soloist gets sick and a replacement must be found. And not just any replacement; it has to be someone who knows the piece and has the chops to pull it off.
In case you’re wondering where all the brass players in St. Louis were this weekend, they were at Powell Hall raising a ruckus in Prokofiev’s infrequently played “Scythian Suite”, an electrifying performance of which closed this weekend’s concerts at Powell Hall.
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 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.
Few human emotions are not found in Sergei Prokofiev's epic cantata Alexander Nevsky. Fear, bravery, adrenaline rush, grief, thirst for freedom, love, the thrill of victory, and, ultimately, happiness -- all were delivered handsomely on November 19-20 by the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus under David Robertson.