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.
Mozart, as they used to say over at Variety, is clearly “boffo” with St. Louis Symphony audiences. The crowd at Friday morning’s concert was larger than usual and obviously appreciative of Bernard Labadie’s vibrant readings of Mozart’s 33rd and 40th symphonies, as well as with Principal Clarinet Scott Andrew’s elegant work in the "Clarinet Concerto, K. 622".
As I have noted before, Ward Stare (who completed his tenure as Resident Conductor of the symphony in 2012 and is now in demand as both and operatic and symphonic conductor) is someone to watch.
As René Spencer Saller points out in her program notes for these concerts, the legendary violinist/composer Niccolò Paganini was the early 18th century equivalent of a modern rock star, with an extravagant talent and matching lifestyle.
A contemporary composer conducting the symphony in a program of his own music isn’t usually the sort of thing that generates long lines, either at the box office or at the rest rooms during intermission.