Blog Gone

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Vacationing. The next blog post will be Thursday, April 24.

Sex and the Symphony

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Kudos to Allison Babka and the team at the Riverfront Times for the symphony orchestra headline we’ve always wanted to see: “Sex and the Symphony: Ben Folds Explains Why Orchestral Music is the Best Aphrodisiac.”

Ben Folds

Ben Folds

And then comes the lead:

“Ben Folds has a notion that may help orchestras around the world draw new ticket buyers. ‘People, this will get you laid.’”

I’ve made this case before. It seems that every sector of the entertainment industry understands that sexy sells, except for classical music. If Leila Josefowicz or Hilary Hahn or Yuja Wang dress provocatively for Prokofiev, they often get critically slammed for it. Beyonce does not have this problem.

So much of classical music is about passion. And that passion in the music is meant to set a spark in the audience. Maybe we need a “Gonna Sex You Up, St. Louis” Symphony series.

For the full article, click.

Following Legends

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David Robertson is on the disabled list. Not our David Robertson, but the New York Yankees David Robertson, the pitcher who has been given the difficult task of following a legend, Mariano Rivera, as the pinstripe closer.

Our David Robertson still appears fresh after a long season. Tuesday night he conducts the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus at the Cathedral Basilica. On the program: Messiaen’s Le Tombeau resplendissant and “O sacrum convivium!”, Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and Bruckner’s Motet: “Os justi” and Te Deum.

Our David Robertson, versatile with an assortment of pitches, excellent stamina, combines power with finesse, reliable in the clutch

Our David Robertson, versatile with an assortment of pitches, excellent stamina, combines power with finesse, reliable in the clutch

After this concert our David Robertson goes on another road swing, but will be back home in May to close the season strong with music by Dalbavie, Britten, and Tchaikovsky. Our Robertson’s got proven stamina. Management recently extended his contract.

Good luck to the other David Robertson, with wishes for a quick recovery. It must be tough following a legend, although in the classical music game, artists are always following legends. It’s part of the game.

Cross Cultural

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Music communicates without words across cultures. First violinist Xiaoxiao Qiang, a native of China, had never played Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 until Thursday’s rehearsal. And yet, she told me that the music felt just like the St. Louis weather that day–low clouds, overcast. She said she also sensed the ocean.

Finnish weather evoked through notes on a page.

That Sound

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There’s an amazing sound the strings make in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 that I have been drawn to from the first time I heard it. Luckily, I work with smart musicians like Concertmaster David Halen to tell me what it is and how it’s made.

Dome Tones

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David Robertson and the orchestra rehearsed the Cathedral Concert program on Wednesday. It will be the first time the Symphony has played the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (or as locals call it, the “New” Cathedral) in a number of years. Music by Messiaen, Bruckner, and Vaughan Williams, with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus performing as well, Tuesday, April 8 at 8pm.

Bruckner writes gorgeous phrasings for the trombones and tuba. During a rehearsal break Tim Myers, Jonathan Reycraft, Gerry Pagano, and Mike Sanders practiced one together. It just seemed to climb and climb, and it was not hard to imagine the tones reverberating upon the dome of the cathedral.

Under the Surface

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Christian Tetzlaff plays Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony this week. The first to play the concerto with the Symphony is presently sitting in the First Violins, Silvian Iticovici, in 1989. Iticovici played the piece under Leonard Slatkin, who gave him a four-year head-start to prepare. Iticovici said he needed it. “I didn’t understand anything about the first movement,” he told me. “It’s dark, terribly repressed. There is angst. Everything is very gray. But if you look underneath the severity, there is a lot going on.”

Familiar

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Don’t be afraid of Schoenberg. As Principal Trombone Timothy Myers suggests in this week’s video blog, Erwartung is music you are familiar with, but may not realize it.

New Things

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Before we settled in to record an interview for the Saturday night broadcast of the Symphony’s concert on St. Louis Public Radio, I asked Karita Mattila if it was all right to discuss that this will be her premiere performance of Schoenberg’s Erwartung. I asked because some artists prefer not to make that part of the story of their performance, for a host of reasons.

Karita Mattila

Karita Mattila   Photo credit: Marcia Rosengard

“Why not?” Mattila said. “I’m 53. Is that not a good time to try new things?”

Happenings

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If you were paying attention to anything other than the basketball tournament in town last weekend, you may have been somewhere near a St. Louis Symphony event, or post-concert event. The Friday and Saturday Symphony concerts with David Robertson and Gil Shaham were phenomenal. Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra knocked it out of the park with Tchaikovsky 5 and YO Concerto Competition Winner Grant Riew’s performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto. After the YO concert Riew and his family were joined by YO manager Jessica Ingraham, Ex Aff VP Adam Crane, and David Robertson for celebratory burgers at Bailey’s Range downtown. Then in the evening a Symphony in Your College concert at Washington University included original works by Principal Timpani Shannon Woods. Robertson made it to that show too, after the burgers.

The place has been so busy I’ve been unable to mention the On Stage at Powell concert last Wednesday, Bosnian Journeys. Through recorded interviews, images and music, stories were told of St. Louis’ Bosnian community. Many of those in the auditorium that night were of that community, people who came here as refugees to escape the frenzy of war after the former Yugoslavia violently fractured in the 1990s. It was a gripping and powerfully moving event. With a great party afterword in the foyer, featuring food from Grbic, Sarajevo beer and slivovitz.

Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne brought many people, organizations and talents together to make Bosnian Journeys successful. Here she is with Symphony violinist Becky Boyer Hall, who played in the show, at the foyer after-party.

Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall

Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall

Everybody wants their picture taken on the grand staircase. Here are musicians from the Symphony and members of the Bosnian community doing what comes naturally at Powell Hall.

bosnians