Postcard Thursday

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Hornist Tod Bowermaster’s postcard is from the mountains of Idaho.

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“I just returned from Sun Valley, Idaho, where I performed for the last 3 1/2 weeks as a member of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony.”

Tod Bowermaster and Audra McDonald

Tod Bowermaster and Audra McDonald

“I played 12 concerts during that time, including a gala concert with Audra McDonald (she was fantastic!), a wonderful performance of Bruckner 7, and a horn quintet performance of the fun and exotic Casbah of Tetuoan by Kerry Turner. The sizable St. Louis Symphony contingent did themselves proud!”

Sun Vally Summer Symphony horn quintet

Sun Vally Summer Symphony horn quintet

Creature Features

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Music tells the story this season, and does that in part by portraying characters–Don Quixote, Hamlet, and even the planets in our solar system. There are animal characters as well, in Peter and the Wolf and in Mother Goose Suite, and a totemic wolf in a new double bass concerto by Tan Dun.

To tell animal stories with animal characters this season, the St. Louis Symphony and the Saint Louis Zoo have merged their artistic and educational talents again for a Family Concert (Hoot & Howl at Powell) and Education Concerts in October. A nocturnal theme drives the music and the stories, so you’ll hear Night on Bald Mountain and get to know Luna the Bat.

My Education Department colleagues Jessica Ingraham and Michael Gandlmayr took a trip to the Zoo to work on the script for the shows with their zoological counterparts. And they took some time to visit with a few of the inhabitants on an outlandishly gorgeous day in August.

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Light in August

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Because in the fading light of late summer, you just have to take another picture of the chandeliers.

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Powell Hall Afternoon

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Maybe the earthly spirit of Robert Frank was hovering about me, but I stepped outside and took some shots of Powell Hall from different perspectives. And yes, I probably spent too much time studying the fire escapes.

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Postcard Thursday

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Principal Harp Allegra Lilly shares a few pics and stories from the Summer of 15:

“This is kind of an in-between week for me, primarily consisting of packing up and road-tripping it back to St. Louis from Tanglewood by way of my parents’ home in Michigan. I’ve spent the last seven weeks substituting for the Boston Symphony’s principal harpist, Jessica Zhou, who was away on maternity leave.”

Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and Allegra Lilly

Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and Allegra Lilly

“The first a photo is of Bryn Terfel and me after a July 11 performance of the first act of Tosca. Bryn, who was as magnificent as always, must be just about the nicest guy in show business these days. That performance was also very special to me because my parents were able to make the trip out to Tanglewood and saw me perform with the BSO for the very first time. Plus, it was my father’s 76th birthday that weekend, and they just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on August 9th!”

Allegra and Tyler and Niagra Falls

Allegra and Tyler at Niagra Falls

“We ended up with just enough time to drive back to St. Louis and repack before I head to London for the BSO’s two-and-a-half-week European tour. My boyfriend Tyler and I managed to squeeze in a quick stop at Niagara Falls, which he (and our two guinea pigs) had never visited before, so I’ve also included a few photos of us there (the one of Tyler and the pigs is my personal favorite).”

Allegra and Niagra

Allegra and Niagra

Tyler, guinea pigs and falls

Tyler, guinea pigs and falls

“It has been a whirlwind couple of days, but I couldn’t be more excited both to revisit the cities I’ve been to before (London, Paris, Milan) and to see others I haven’t yet had a chance to get to (Salzburg, Grafenegg, Lucerne, Cologne, Berlin). We’ll be playing a ton of fantastic repertoire, too–Mahler 6, Ein Heldenleben, Don Quixote with Yo-Yo Ma and BSO Principal Viola Steven Ansell, an incredibly difficult trumpet concerto by Brett Dean with soloist Håkan Hardenberger, and several other works that don’t involve harp, including Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10.”

One last rainbow near Tanglewood

One last rainbow near Tanglewood

“This has been an immensely fulfilling and action-packed summer, but the prize at the end will be returning to work with my own musical family. I’ll be back in St. Louis the day before we start rehearsals for our 2015-16 season and I can’t wait to dive back in.”

Next Postcard Thursday: horn player Tod Bowermaster.

3 Masterpieces, 3 Soundscapes

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Mahler Symphony Nos. 4 and 5 give orchestral musicians reasons for being. Symphony No. 4 is the other side of the Mahler moon. It doesn’t provide the signature gorgeous racket of Mahler’s great and grandiose Fifth. The Fourth is Mahler’s shortest symphony, and as  double bassist David DeRiso observed: “It’s all the swagger of Mahler with all his pastoral brilliance scaled down, so I don’t have to wear earplugs and can mostly hear myself!”

Gustav Mahler by Emil Orlik, 1902

Gustav Mahler by Emil Orlik, 1902

Also to be heard will be the “transcendent” (hornist Tod Bowermaster’s word) soprano Susanna Phillips, singing both the Mahler 4 and Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child.

Concertmaster David Halen has given this weekend of music (April 2-3) big kudos. For Halen, this program, which includes Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, “is a favorite, because these three pieces are some of the most beautiful scores ever written. All three are masterpieces from entirely different soundscapes. I can’t image a more incredible program than this.”

 

A Reason To Be

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So what makes Mahler 5 the top hot pick of the season for St. Louis Symphony musicians? Mahler symphonies keep everyone busy, artfully. They call on all their chops. Musicians are trained to be attentive of each other in the midst of performance, and Mahler symphonies call for super attention. There is very little the Fifth Symphony doesn’t do, or doesn’t say. There is not an untapped emotion. It is a reason to be, and to be a musician. Or as double bassist David DeRiso said it, “The Mahler 5 is really the piece that made me want to play in an orchestra for a living.”

David DeRiso

David DeRiso

Double Digits

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Last Monday I announced the Top Five Hot Picks of the 2015-2016 season as chosen by the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony. They are 1) Mahler 5, January 22-23; 2) Mahler 4, April 2-3; 3) All-Strauss, September 25-26; 4) Beethoven 6, November 13-15; 5) Beethoven 9, October 9-11.

Undoubtedly there is music to love every week at Powell Hall, and throughout the season, on the blog and elsewhere, you’ll learn more about the relationships musicians have with the music they play–what makes the hot picks hot, what are the memories and emotions the music evokes in the individual players.

In the meantime, three concert programs were on the bubble for the Top Five Hot Picks. So not unlike in the Chris Rock movie Top Five, there’s always a sixth worth mentioning (Slick Rick!), or a seventh and an eighth. The concerts were all in the double digits when it came to the final tally.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

6) Opening Weekend with Joshua Bell. September 18-20. David Robertson, conductor; Joshua Bell, violin. JANACEK Taras Bulba KODALY Hary Janos Suite LALO Symphonie espagnole.

Music and images play in the Symphony's performance of "From the Canyons to the Stars."

Music and images play in the Symphony’s performance of “From the Canyons to the Stars.”

7) From the Canyons to the Stars. January 16. David Robertson, conductor; Peter Henderson, piano; Deborah O’Grady, video artist. MESSIAEN Des canyons aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the Stars…) .

Christine Brewer sings Berg's "Altenberg Lieder" in the season finale.

Christine Brewer sings Berg’s “Altenberg Lieder” in the season finale.

8) The Planets. May 6-8. David Robertson, conductor; Christine Brewer, soprano; Kathleen Mattis, viola; St. Louis Symphony Chorus; Amy Kaiser, director. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Flos campi (Flower of the Field) BERG Altenberg Lieder HOLST The Planets.

You can call these the Slick Rick Picks if you want to.

 

Another Year

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The St. Louis Symphony begins its 136th season in not too long. Double bass player Donald Martin is moving into his 54th season with the orchestra, or as he puts it: “Another year to play great music.”

Donald Martin will be opening his instrument case for season 54 very soon.

Donald Martin will be opening his instrument case for season 54 very soon.

Postcard Thursday

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On the blog this summer you’ve seen Principal Timpani Shannon Wood in his Grand Center studio practicing on his solo for next spring, William Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 2, “The Grand Encounter.” Soon on the video blog you’ll see him talking with the composer during a visit to Kraft’s home and studio near Pasadena, California. But for now, the Woods are on vacation.

Carina and Shannon Wood enjoy a rooftop pool overlooking Palermo.

Carina and Shannon Wood enjoy a rooftop pool overlooking Palermo.

The Woods visited the Sicilian town of Cefalú, its Norman cathedral in the background.

The Woods visited the Sicilian town of Cefalú, its Norman cathedral in the background.

As Wood describes it, Cefalú is a beautiful old town on the Mediterranean, east of Palermo. “We enrolled in a language class there,” he writes. “I’m fairly fluent already, but it’ll help refine my skills. [Spouse] Jaci has been studying Italian for more than a year already, so it’ll be really helpful for her.”

They were in England before the month-long stay in Sicily. They head to Dublin before returning to St. Louis and then back to the basement and preparing for the season.

Next Postcard Thursday: Principal Harp Allegra Lilly.