It was a case of saving the best for last this weekend as the St. Louis Symphony concluded its four-week "Beethoven Festival" with stunning performances by guest conductor Jaap van Zweden of the Fifth symphonies of Beethoven and a composer who greatly admired Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich.
The St. Louis Symphony's "Beethoven Festival" concludes this weekend with Beethoven's Greatest Hit, the "Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67." In an ingenious bit of programming, it's paired with another fifth: the "Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op. 47," composed in 1937 by Dmitri Shostakovich. Jaap van Zweden conducts.
The symphony's "Beethoven Festival" continues this week with a powerful reading of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55," (the "Eroica") and brilliant performances of two new works composed by viola soloist Brett Dean, one of which is inspired by Beethoven.
This weekend the second of the symphony’s four "Beethoven Festival" concerts brings us music of Beethoven, a younger contemporary of Beethoven, and a 20th century composer who acknowledged Beethoven as a major influence—all done up by guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada in that dramatic, late Romantic Austro-German style I associate with the recordings of Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer that were so much a part of my youth.
The "Beethoven Festival" continues this Friday through Sunday with what is probably his grandest piano concerto—the Fifth, known as the "Emperor Concerto"—along with a concerto of a very different sort from Béla Bartók and an overture to a failed Medieval fantasy opera by Carl Maria von Weber. Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts with piano soloist Louis Lortie.
One of the miracles of an ensemble that works as tirelessly as the St. Louis Symphony is its ability to perform not just in the classical mode, but in a plethora of genres. This was demonstrated once again on December 14-15 when the Symphony presented a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas”, immediately on the heels of the “Gospel Messiah” and the Bach “Christmas Oratorio”. The ability of these musicians to continually don new musical garb, so to speak, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Powell Hall generated enough heat to light up the entire city December 12-13 with performances of “Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah”, invigorated by the combined talents of soprano Cynthia Renee Saffron, mezzo La Tanya Hall, tenor Thomas Young, the St. Louis Symphony and the SLSO IN UNISON Chorus, guided by the hands of Kevin McBeth.
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 essay writer 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.