What with El Niño, global warming, and the relentless drumbeat of hate and fear from the rightward end of the political spectrum, it hasn't felt much like Christmas lately for me. But walking into a bright, wreath-bedecked Powell Hall Friday night for the first of the St. Louis Symphony's Macy's Holiday Celebration concerts changed all that. I'm starting to feel like a right jolly old elf.
It's another movie weekend at Powell Hall as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra plays the score of the 1985 science fantasy film "Back to the Future" to accompany a complete showing of the movie. It is, as they say, fun for the whole family (all three generations in my party had a good time) and also a reminder of how much film music has changed in three decades.
The phrase "American exceptionalism" gets misused a lot these days, but as this past weekend's concerts of some wonderfully inventive twentieth-century American music demonstrated, sometimes the USA can take credit for things that are, indeed, exceptional.
It's an all-American weekend at Powell Hall this Friday through Sunday as St. Louis Symphony Resident Conductor Steven Jarvi leads the orchestra in a program of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin. It includes two Big Pieces, one of which—Copland's 1926 "Piano Concerto"—is not heard all that often.
Phrases like "family entertainment" and " recommended for all ages" are far too often euphemisms for "dull and unimaginative," as though children were simply very dim adults who could only be trusted with the performing arts equivalent of plastic scissors. Fortunately, the folks at Disney/Pixar know better.
In my last symphony preview post, I gave you a glimpse at the upcoming Christmas concerts. This time, let's look at the post-Christmas action.
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.
Looking for something different in holiday entertainment? Seriously consider "A Winter Fable," the current collaboration between Circus Flora and the St. Louis Symphony. It features great music by Steven Jarvi and the symphony—including some rarely played pieces by Ippolitov-Ivanov, Dvořák, and Janáček—and an impressive array of circus acts. It's major holiday fun.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will be delivering Christmas presents for St. Louis audiences throughout the month of December. Let's sneak downstairs and take a peek under the wrapping, shall we?