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.
If the 1807 premiere of Beethoven's "Mass in C major" at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy had been as good as the performance we got from David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Friday night, the prince might have been less of a jerk with the composer afterwards.
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.
We may never know who first applied the nickname "Jupiter" to Mozart's last symphony—American musicologist Daniel Heartz posits that it was impresario Johann Peter Salomon—but it's not hard to see why the name stuck.
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 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.
The rush of winter winds, the clap of thunder, the pounding of rain, the buzzing of insects, the barking of a dog, the slipperiness of ice, the languor of summer, the singing of not just one bird, but multiple species—all these were engraved into Antonio Vivaldi’s remarkable set of violin concertos dating from 1725, “The Four Seasons.” Today we take them for granted, and even the least musically educated among us know them, but in their day these four short concertos brought the Baroque period to a higher level of innovation and creativity.
As I said in my first symphony preview post this week, the main event at the St. Louis Symphony this weekend is Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Steven Jarvi is at the podium and the violin soloists—all drawn from the symphony string section—are Jessica Cheng (“Spring”), Angie Smart (“Summer”), Jooyeon Kong (“Autumn”), and Alison Harney (“Winter”). What I left out was any mention of the other two works on the program.
Arguably today more than ever, the voice of the cello is impacting music of all styles, from classical to jazz to alternative rock. Its strength and humanity, as well as its remarkable range, move the soul of the listener from deep within. One of the principal exponents of the cello today is Daniel Lee, the brilliant young Korean-American musician who has made St. Louis his home since assuming the post of Principal Cello of the St. Louis Symphony in 2005.