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.
This weekend the St. Louis Symphony is presenting two separate programs: 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. In this article I'll just deal with the regular series.
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.
Physics may tell us that you can’t strike sparks with wood, but I’m here to tell you that Vadim Gluzman did exactly that with his exhilarating performance of the Tchaikovsky “Violin Concerto” Friday morning. The difficult first movement cadenza, in particular, was mesmerizing in its intensity and precision.
If St. Louis Symphony Principal Cello Daniel Lee isn’t feeling extraordinarily pleased with himself right now, it must mean that his virtuosity is exceed only by his modesty.
It has always seemed to me that one hallmark of a great orchestra is its ability to make a persuasive case not only for the standards of the repertoire but for more obscure works as well. It’s one thing to present a polished performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (as the SLSO did last weekend); it’s quite another to deliver an equally exciting reading of the less popular Concerto No. 2 and then follow it up with a compelling Scriabin Symphony No. 2, a work the symphony hasn’t done in over forty years.