Members of the St. Louis Symphony gave us two sharply contrasting insights into the romantic soul Wednesday night.
In his program notes for this weekend’s concerts, Paul Schiavo suggests that the theme running through all three works is the way in which they strongly suggest visual images to the listener. Let me suggest an additional one: all three composers represented here—Glinka, Bartók, and Mussorgsky—drew heavily on folk traditions in their respective cultures. One way or another, they were all proponents of musical nationalism.
Although Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral”, is a purely instrumental work, the weekend of October 12-14 at Powell Hall it assumed a choral sheen under the baton of guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos that seemed to utterly transform the work.
It was a lively and entertaining evening at Powell Hall last night with a dance-infused program that included three of Dvořák’s popular “Slavonic Dances”, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, Bernstein’s still-amazing “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story”, and an appropriately hallucinatory reading of Ravel’s death knell for the 19th century, “La Valse”.
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.
If I had a plethora of laurel wreathes (is that the right collective noun?) to throw around I’d crown the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, guest conductor Stèphane Denève, and every member of Amy Kaiser's chorus with them for their joyous performance of Ravel’s "Daphnis et Chloé" Friday night. The composer called it a "symphonie choréographique"; the choreographer Michael Folkine of the Ballets Russes, for whom it was written 100 years ago, called it a ballet; and nearly everyone since has called it Ravel’s greatest work. As performed by Mr. Denève and the orchestra, I call it a great success, with flawless solos, precise ensembles, and gorgeous sound overall.