This weekend's St. Louis symphony concerts feature (to borrow a phrase from the baseball diamond) a pair of heavy hitters—on both the stage and the page.
In his "Concord Hymn" Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the first shot of the American Revolutionary War as "the shot heard round the world." The same phrase has been applied to the shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. This weekend the St. Louis symphony will be playing the musical equivalent of "the shot heard round the world." Let's call it "the chord heard round the world." Its effect was less violent, but no less revolutionary in its own way.
This weekend David Robertson conducts the symphony in three "American" works. Granted, only one was written by an American; but all three were composed here and one even had its premiere in St. Louis.
There's only one work on the St. Louis Symphony program this weekend, but it's a big one: the "Messa da Requiem" (Requiem Mass) by that giant of Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi.
When guest conductor Bernard Labadie takes the podium this weekend, he'll be leading a noticeably downsized St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. But never fear; nobody has been sacked. It's just that he's conducting a program of music written between 1763 and 1792, back when both orchestras and the halls in which they played were substantially smaller than they are now.
This weekend (February 7-9) marks the return to the Powell Hall stage of Lucerne Symphony Chief Conductor (and fellow Rice University alum) James Gaffigan for a program of music by Mendelssohn and Brahms that puts two of the symphony's own in the spotlight.
This weekend's St. Louis Symphony concerts continue the "Beethoven Festival" as David Robertson returns to the podium for the first time in the new year to conduct a newly minted viola concerto and two works directly related to Beethoven's famous 1802 "Heiligenstadt Testament." One—the "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op. 55," known as the "Eroica"—is by Beethoven and the other by the composer of the viola concerto, Brett Dean. Neat bit of theme programming, that.
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.
Writing in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, Donald Paine notes that Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem," written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, "may stand as representative of his genius and of the theme that recurs throughout his work: the indictment of human folly as it shows itself both in the tragedy and wastage of war and in the corruption of human innocence."