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The second and more substantial half of this weekend's St. Louis Symphony double bill consists of only two works: John Adams's "Saxophone Concerto," which the SLSO recorded in 2014, and Mahler's powerful "Symphony No. 5," which hasn't been heard here since 2009.

It's another two-for-one sale at Powell Hall this Friday and Saturday as David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony present "Music You Know: Romantic Favorites" on Friday night, and major works by John Adams and Mahler Friday morning and Saturday night. I'll talk about the second program in another article.

America's bicentennial sparked a lot of activity on the classical music scene, including special concerts, new commissioned works, and even a record label (New World) dedicated to American music, past and present. One of the more unusual commissioned works, though, came not from an American composer but from a Frenchman. It was "Des canyons aux étoiles..." ("From the Canyons to the Stars...") by Olivier Messiaen, and it's getting its local premiere this Saturday by David Robertson and the SLSO.

This weekend the St. Louis Symphony is repeating what is starting to look like a holiday tradition with a celebration of the film music of John Williams, conducted by maestro David Robertson. If it's anything like previous programs of Williams's music, it will certainly make a joyful noise — and isn't that largely what the season is all about?

In a recent post I looked at the way Handel's "Messiah" got moved from Easter to Christmas. This time I'd like to take a look at an even more puzzling question: Why does everyone stand during the "Hallelujah" chorus that concludes Part 2?

The Christmas season in upon us. For those of us keeping track of the entertainment scene, that means an inevitable encounter with at least one performance of all of the following: a stage adaptation of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" (probably with music), Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," and Handel's "Messiah". The latter is coming our way this weekend, in fact, from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of early music specialist Bernard Labadie.

If you consider his entire output, Johannes Brahms was an early bloomer. He reportedly wrote his first piano sonata at the age of 11, was touring as a pianist by 19, and was only 20 when Schumann sang of his virtues, calling him "a young man over whose cradle Graces and Heroes have stood watch". Heady stuff.

If you consider his entire output, Johannes Brahms was an early bloomer. He reportedly wrote his first piano sonata at the age of 11, was touring as a pianist by 19, and was only 20 when Schumann sang of his virtues, calling him "a young man over whose cradle Graces and Heroes have stood watch". Heady stuff.

Quick question: without looking out of a window or using Google, do you know what phase the moon is in tonight? If the answer is "no," don't feel bad; thanks to the ubiquity of electric light, most of us have lost our connection to the moon and stars. Indeed, a nearly complete disconnect from the natural world is both the blessing and the curse of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Nicholas McGegan, who is conducting the St. Louis Symphony in a program of (mostly) Mozart this weekend, is clearly a man who enjoys his work. When I've seen him conduct the orchestra, he practically bounds out to the podium, his face alight with a cherubic smile. His body language shouts: "this is going to be FUN!" And so it always is.

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