I heard Andrew Peters warming up the portative organ in the Green Room on Monday afternoon. Even though he was preparing for rehearsals of Handel’s Messiah, it still sounded to me like the summertime ice-cream truck was coming down the street.
A sure sign that the holiday season is upon us–the garland appears in Powell Hall.
But keep your wits about you this weekend, because with the works by Prokofiev and Tan Dun on the program, Powell Hall will also be a wolf’s lair.
I’ll be taking some holiday time away the rest of this week, so it will be blog gone until Monday, November 30.
Last week in my blog post about the Brass Extravaganza, I identified Principal Horn Roger Kaza as conductor of the combined St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, and a walk-on guest brass ensemble that gave generous performances of a Richard Strauss song and W.C. Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues.”
I was in error. Kaza had the baton for the March from Aida, but it was Associate Principal Horn Thomas Jöstlein who led the Strauss and Handy. I was also informed that Jöstlein’s conducting style included notable “booty shakin'” during the “Saint Louis Blues.” As great as the music of Strauss is, it rarely calls for a booty shake from the conductor.
On Wednesday night the On Stage at Powell community concert series gave it up for brass. The concert featured not only St. Louis Symphony brass musicians, but also members of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra brass section. The true extravaganza component of the evening was the addition of close to 50 amateur brass players who came ready to perform. Principal Horn Roger Kaza conducted a full stage of 80 brass players through music by Richard Strauss and W.C. Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues.” What became immediately obvious to those in the ensemble–who ranged in age from 11 to 80–and to those in the audience was that everybody had practiced–a lot.
Maureen Byrne, Director of Community Programs, managed a folder-full of logistics to make this event happen. In the end, the On Stage at Powell audience and a lot of brass players went home smiling. The Urban Chestnut beer at the post-show party in the foyer was a part of that too.
There’s a lot of crazy fiddlin’ that goes on in Brett Dean’s violin concerto, The Lost Art of Letter Writing. Watching soloist Jack Liebeck play it in rehearsal on Tuesday morning was akin to seeing the Wallendas on a high wire. A big orchestra makes sounds big and small for the concerto, including these steel drums, which took a rest during the afternoon.
Double bassist Donald Martin made his way through the off stage percussion prior to the performance of Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra Saturday night to tell me that his very first concert with the St. Louis Symphony was also the Symphony premiere of the work: October 20, 1962, with Eleazar de Carvalho conducting at Kiel Opera House. After telling me that Don made his way back through the percussion to the stage to play it again, this time with David Robertson conducting.
David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony are rehearsing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” this afternoon. Joshua Dobkins and I are working on a very cool project for the Thanksgiving weekend performances of Tan Dun’s Contrabass Concerto: The Wolf this week, so in the meantime, I will reprise this Play Memory piece with Principal Viola Beth Guterman Chu.
The St. Louis Symphony held its Annual Meeting, which delivers news of the well-being of the orchestra to board members, musicians, staff, and other assorted folk. Organizations of all kinds hold such meetings, but what makes the Symphony’s special is that live music is part of it. An ensemble of musicians, featuring Principal Harp Allegra Lilly, performed works by Mahler and Debussy, with David Robertson conducting. So before the list of artistic achievements and financial reports, everyone is reminded of the essential–that music is the center of what we do and who we are.
The roar you may have heard coming from Grand Center late Sunday afternoon was the sound of the near-capacity Powell Hall audience after the last notes of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”
Then late afternoon turned to evening, and Cortango Orquesta performed a Community Concert at the Jewish Book Festival. Symphony musicians Cally Banham, English horn; Asako Kuboki, violin; and David DeRiso, double bass are the founders and principal members of Cortango.