To the Core

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Melissa Brooks, associate principal cello: “Fight it as I might, in certain moments there is absolutely nothing, outside of the people in my life, that effects me the way classical music does. It makes me smile one second, and breaks my heart the next. I might cry and want to throw it all away and then be so moved that I cannot imagine a life without such incredible beauty. Nothing cuts to the core so quickly and permanently.”

Melissa Brooks Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim

Melissa Brooks
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim

Cat and Mouse and Liszt

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There are a lot of reasons to like Lang Lang. He’s one of the most exciting musicians on the planet to hear and see live. At the keyboard he appears to be just on the edge of control, like a great downhill racer. It’s hard to believe he’s over 30 (just barely), since many of us remember him as the impetuous teenager playing with all the panache of Horowitz. He’s also a sweet guy and works to do a lot of good. He plays Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 for the St. Louis Symphony Gala on October 18, with David Robertson conducting the orchestra.

Lang Lang © Peter Hönnemann

Lang Lang
© Peter Hönnemann

But on top of all that, he includes among his first inspirations the Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Cat Concerto.” That’s how he first got acquainted with Liszt.

A History of Complaint

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A colleague was going through old St. Louis Symphony correspondence. In one file there were letters of complaint from 1990. That year, Powell Hall went smoke free. A number of smokers were furious. They threatened to cancel subscriptions. They expressed outrage at the outdoor smoking area they had been provided. The pleasure of a concert and a cigarette was defined as a concertgoer’s right.

In 2014 this may be hard to imagine for some. Here is documentary evidence that may help you. This is Leonard Bernstein in rehearsal. With cigarette.

bernstein cigarette

 

Up

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Tuesday morning laborers were hauling pipe to the upper levels of the Powell Hall auditorium through a fire-escape doorway. By afternoon, scaffolding had been constructed so ceiling repairs can be done.

Scaffold as seen from the top rows of Powell Hall.

Scaffold as seen from the top rows of Powell Hall.

Sparkle and Shine

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Every other summer or so the Powell Hall chandeliers come down from their roost and say “Clean me.”

chandelier 1And so they’ve appeared this week. Harbingers of a bright new symphony season.

Restore

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The much-needed window replacement and restoration project for the front of Powell Hall has been completed. How much-needed was it? Here is a photo of an old wood frame that was removed.

Old wood frame

Old wood frame

Here is a detail of new frames.

New frame, detail

New frame, detail

Meanwhile, as anyone who has taken on a restoration project knows, you find many interesting things when taking apart an old house.

Falstaff cans

Falstaff cans

This is the real mystery. Who would ever forget their beer?

Many thanks to Cynthia Schon, Director of Facilities, for sharing these images and for overseeing this big project.

 

 

One More Road Trip

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If you are up for one more road trip before Labor Day Weekend, the Missouri River Festival of the Arts, in Boonville, MO, begins Thursday evening and runs through Saturday. St. Louis Symphony concertmaster David Halen is artistic director of the fest, and he has invited players from the St. Louis and Kansas City symphonies to perform in historic Thespian Hall. Solo performers from our orchestra include violinists Celeste Golden Boyer, Helen Kim and Xiaoxiao Qiang. Other featured artists include Miran Halen, Peter Martin and Jacob Braun. Boonville is a pretty place. It’s a nice drive. Lots of good music. For more info click.

Thespian Hall, Boonville, Missouri

Thespian Hall, Boonville, Missouri

Last Night in Sun Valley

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Wednesday evening concludes the Sun Valley Summer Symphony season in Idaho. I mention this because a number of St. Louis Symphony musicians make up the orchestra there each summer. Last August the season was shut down by wildfires, but this summer has been one of regrowth in the high country after the burn.

So as we return to St. Louis summer heat, let’s think about the crisp clear air of Sun Valley, the mountains purpling into shadow, and trombonists Tim Myers and Jonathan Reycraft playing the fanfare in Copland’s Symphony No. 3. Good night, Idaho.

Tim Myers and Jonathan Reycraft, foreground.

Tim Myers and Jonathan Reycraft, foreground.

And thank you Aaron Copland, for making music to uplift us all from the most troubled times, reminding us of the nobleness of the common man and woman.

To Be Part Of

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In my very first interview with David Robertson, in 2004, he said: “Music is a kind of place where everybody’s free to meet regardless of what their background is, regardless of their heritage, or regardless of their personal preoccupations. It’s this sort of open space. It’s an open form, where you can come and be involved with what it means to be part of the human community.”

Robertson_DBV_0085

Inextinguishable

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With the outbreak of World War I, composer Carl Nielsen wrote to a friend, “It’s as if the world is disintegrating….”

A German trench occupied by British soldiers, Battle of the Somme, 1916

A German trench occupied by British soldiers, Battle of the Somme, 1916

Yet with that despair, perhaps due to that despair, Nielsen composed his Fourth Symphony from 1914-16. He came to believe “Life is indomitable and inextinguishable.”