This weekend at Powell Hall it's a classic example of musical storytelling, a cocky, nose-thumbing piano concerto by a musical wise guy in his 20s, and a bit of orchestral delirium.
This is another “twofer” week when it comes to St. Louis Symphony concerts. In addition to the regular series as Powell Hall on Friday and Saturday there’s a Pulitzer Series event on Wednesday at the Pulitzer Center for the Arts just west of Powell Hall. If you’ve never been to the Pulitzer Series, here’s a heads-up.
Before the first note sounded at Saturday night’s Red Velvet Ball fundraiser concert, the evening was already a success, in that it had raised over $600,000 for the symphony. In return for all that cash, the near-capacity crowd at Powell Hall got a solid evening of great music from the orchestra under David Robertson and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
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.
As I wrote in a previous post, there are two St. Louis Symphony concerts this weekend: 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. Here's a preview of the latter.
Violinist Anthony Marwood just might have been the hardest-working man in (classical) show business in a series of all-Mozart concerts this weekend as he took on the roles of conductor, soloist, and (except in the “Violin Concerto No. 3”) concertmaster.
Saturday night’s concert began with Gershwin's fiery "Cuban Overture" and ended with an appropriate Latin encore from pianist John Kimura Parker—Joplin's wistful "Solace: A Mexican Serenade". In between was a high-energy evening from which the spirit of jazz was never entirely absent.
When the German drama and Romanticism of Beethoven and Richard Strauss are infused with the Gallic charm of guest conductor Stephane Deneve, combined with the work of young American composer Patrick Harlin, the result is a remarkable audience appeal that not only endeared the composers and performers to listeners, but enhanced their appreciation and understanding.
The first concert of the new symphony season was a study in contrasts, to say the least. For many music lovers, I expect, the Big Event of the evening was probably Kirill Gerstein’s surprisingly lyrical approach to the massively popular Tchaikovsky “Piano Concerto No. 1”. For me, though, Charles Ives's “Three Places in New England”—still sounding fresh and radical over a century after it was first composed—was the star of the evening.
For the second week in a row, Maestro David Robertson has taken a well-known piece in the standard repertoire, plugged it into a high-voltage socket, and produced a performance that crackles with electricity.