Romantic and Classic

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Associate Concertmaster Heidi Harris performs Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto Friday and Saturday at Powell Hall. She is one of 50 St. Louis Symphony musicians selected by David Robertson to perform solos with the orchestra this season. Heidi shared these thoughts about her music director and the concerto.

Heidi Harris  Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer

Heidi Harris Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer

“Most people know David Robertson as the vivacious maestro up on the podium leading us in concerts, and as the Music Director of our beloved St. Louis Symphony. As a musician, I feel so lucky to be able to know David off the podium as well, and know what a generous and kind person he is.

“I recently asked David if he would listen to my Mendelssohn Concerto and give me some feedback. This was an unusual request in a way, because he is not the conductor for the upcoming Mendelssohn concerts. The request meant asking him to spend his valuable time and energy helping for a concert he wasn’t even going to conduct! I really wanted David’s feedback because I respect him so much, and since I have performed solos with him before where heĀ was the conductor, I trust his instincts implicitly about how I play a piece of music and whether or not what I’m doing musically will fit in naturally with the orchestral tutti or not.

“In David’s usual, casual, and friendly fashion, he agreed immediately to listen to me. David gave me great feedback, and was extremely helpful to me, for which I am very grateful! He is one of the busiest people I know, always jet setting to and fro, but he made time to listen to one of his own when he was needed. He is just that kinda guy.

“When I found out that I was asked to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, I cried. Really, I did. I was so incredibly happy not only to get the chance to perform as soloist with my very own orchestra, but especially happy to be able to perform the Mendelssohn. No doubt you have brilliantly written program notes to read regarding the concerto, so I’d like to share what I feel about it personally instead of speaking about it historically.

“I learned the Mendelssohn as a young child, and when you learn a piece when you are young there is something extremely organic and very special about it. It’s in your blood, so to speak, and becomes a part of you. It has time to marinate and age with you as you yourself age, like a fine wine ages over time. I feel this way about the Mendelssohn, like it’s an old friend that has been a part of me for many, many years. My musical ideas have changed over time, and also my technique, so this in turn changes my relationship with the concerto in interesting ways. It’s always fresh, it’s always changing. The Mendelssohn is at once romantic and classic, which is my absolute favorite combination in any type of music. I absolutely love it, and am so excited about performing it with the symphony orchestra that I love, the St. Louis Symphony.”

Third Trumpet

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Mike Walk provides insights in the workings of the Third Trumpet in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, part of the Mendelssohn Violin weekend at Powell Hall.

Say Yes

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My gala experience began by photographing Lang Lang’s conversation with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. External Affairs VP Adam Crane served as moderator at the theater in the new KDHX studios a block from Powell. The YO musicians were a rapt audience, with Lang Lang talking about his career–when an orchestra calls and asks if you can play a certain concerto, the answer is always yes, at least in the early years–and the importance of being an ambassador of the art form. He also talked about performing with the Gangnam Style guy.

Lang Lang and Adam Crane with Youth Orchestra

Lang Lang and Adam Crane with Youth Orchestra

In the evening was the big show, with dinner before and dancing after. Symphony Principal Flute Mark Sparks played some revelatory Bach, and Lang Lang did his phenomenal thing.

I must say of the entire organization, we did well. And when it was time to let loose, we partied like it was 1999.

Tales of the E-flat Clarinet

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Associate Principal Clarinet Diana Haskell plays E-flat clarinet on Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and that’s just the beginning of the story.

See and Hear

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Watch David Halen talk Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 on video, hear me talk Symphonie fantastique, Red Velvet Ball, and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on our podcasts at 10-50-135.

All Work

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There is no one, absolutely no one, checking on the Cardinals game during working hours at Powell Hall. Work work work work work work work.

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Sunday Fireworks

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In the afternoon it was the St. Louis Symphony’s 1812 Overture booms. In the evening it was Kolten Wong’s blast.

Although the Cards lost the Saturday night opener, you can’t blame the St. Louis Symphony trumpets, who played the National Anthem. They’ve never been shutout.

Playoff trumpets. Left to right: Mike Walk, Tom Drake, Carrie Schafer, Karin Bliznik

Playoff trumpets. Left to right: Mike Walk, Tom Drake, Carrie Schafer, Karin Bliznik

Doughnuts in the House

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The first Coffee Concert of the season on a rainy Friday morning at Powell Hall. Overheard in the foyer:

A teenage boy: “Are you on your fifth doughnut yet?”

How many doughnuts is that? No one's saying.

How many doughnuts is that? No one’s saying.

Two women waiting in a line:

“This would be an excellent morning to stay in bed.”

“Yes it is.”

“But it is the Symphony.”

Boom Box

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The “Mahler box,” which gets its name for being the funereal thud-maker when Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 is on the schedule at Powell Hall, will be the boom-maker for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Percussionist Henry Claude on boom box this weekend.

 

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A Nuanced Approach

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Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is loud, rock ‘n’ roll loud. It’s one reason young musicians gravitate toward it. “I get to play full out!” Many of the pros, especially the brass, enjoy the 1812 throughout their careers, and they play it throughout their careers–a lot of times outdoors, and sometimes even with real cannon.

Principal Tuba Mike Sanders has played the 1812 Overture inside, outside, with bass drum, with cannon, and this week with a great big wooden box making the big booms.

But how does the tuba get heard amidst all that racket? Mike gave me a demonstration.

Mike Sanders shows what a tubist needs to do to be heard in 1812 Overture.

Mike Sanders shows what a tubist needs to do to be heard in 1812 Overture.