It was cold and snowy outside Powell Hall this weekend, but inside it was all warmth and light as David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus unwrapped an early Christmas present in the form of the first three cantatas from Bach's "Christmas Oratorio."
It has been a heavy month or so for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. On November 16th they performed Britten 's dramatic Peter Grimes at Powell, followed by a repeat performance at Carnegie Hall on November 22nd, Britten 's centenary. At the same time they were rehearsing the first three cantatas of Bach 's 1734-35 Christmas Oratorio for concerts this Friday and Saturday (December 6 and 7) with David Robertson and the orchestra.
In case you thought music only got political in the 1960s, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. The great composers whose music fills concert halls these days were often very politically active and weren’t shy about expressing their politics in their music.
Writing in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, Donald Paine notes that Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem," written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, "may stand as representative of his genius and of the theme that recurs throughout his work: the indictment of human folly as it shows itself both in the tragedy and wastage of war and in the corruption of human innocence."
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.
The first thing you need to know about the symphony's "Fantasia" program is that it's not a showing of the original 1940 film, but rather a mix of sequences from the original and the sequel, "Fantasia 2000."
It's toon time this weekend (November 1-3) at the St. Louis Symphony with music and animation from a pair of remarkable Disney films: "Fantasia" and its sequel from 60 years later "Fantasia 2000." The orchestra's new Resident Conductor Steven Jarvi is on the podium while Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a host of other cartoon critters cavort on the screen.
So how does one make the standard piano concerto format more innovative? By adding a second solo instrument, of course. That is precisely how Dmitry Shostakovich emboldened his Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor. The result is a neo-classically inspired work that is at once brash and refined, carefully laid out yet unpredictable.