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.”

Moon Style

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The Opening Weekend concerts conclude with Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable.” The work features two sets of “dueling” timpani, set on opposite sides of the stage. I talked to Principal Timpani Shannon Wood about the piece, and we got into the whole “dueling” idea, thinking of dueling guitar jams in rock concerts. Wood said, “Maybe I should toss my sticks out to the audience at the end. Or roll the drums off the stage Keith Moon style.”

Keith Moon

Keith Moon

 

The Things That Unite Us

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David Robertson led the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.A. on a tour of its home country this summer, with the final concerts in L.A.

David Robertson

David Robertson

In Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review of the NYO-USA concert in Disney Hall, he wrote: “Why do we need a National Youth Orchestra? As if that weren’t self-evident, Robertson addressed the audience with an irrefutably great answer. Every instrument in the orchestra, he explained, comes from a different place, has a different history, a different shape, a different sound. But take a single one away and you will immediately notice something significant is missing.

“The orchestra, he concluded, symbolizes the way in which ‘the things that unite us are far, far stronger than the things that would seem to keep us apart.”‘

Keep It Simple

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After reading the promotional material for Nike’s new Kobe Bryant “Beethoven” shoe (see Thursday’s post), and especially trying to parse a sentence such as, “The grey color of this colorway represents Beethoven’s timeless quality,” I was reminded of a basic copy-writing rule: keep it simple.

Philip Ross

Philip Ross

For example, I asked oboist Phil Ross about his hot picks for the upcoming season. He needed to look no further than the program for Opening Weekend: David Robertson conducting Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Yefim Bronfman, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with Erin Schreiber, and Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable.” Ross wrote: “Well, the first concert looks pretty damn good. I’d pay good money to hear each piece, let alone all on one program!”

Single tickets go on sale Monday.  Pay your good money for some pretty damn good concerts. You can’t go wrong. It’s simple.

When Kobe Met Ludwig

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Nike releases a new shoe next week, the Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethoven. Here is an excerpt from the promotional copy:

“The Kobe 9 Elite Low brings Bryant’s muses to life. The artistry of music and its ability to move and inspire people has always intrigued the athlete. From classical to pop, he has appreciation for multiple genres. The Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethoven pays tribute to the German composer and pianist, and more specifically the power of his Ninth Symphony from the early 1800s. The grey color of this colorway represents Beethoven’s timeless quality.”

Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethoven

Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethoven

I really have nothing more to add.

For All Flesh Is as Grass

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The St. Louis Symphony Chorus met for its first rehearsal on Tuesday night: Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, in preparation for concerts the first weekend of October.

First St. Louis Symphony Chorus rehearsal, Season 2014-15

First St. Louis Symphony Chorus rehearsal, Season 2014-15

The manager of the Chorus, Susan Patterson, told me that a colleague who overheard the rehearsal remarked on how the ensemble sounded “so beautiful, so together” in this first run through. But Patterson informed me that at least 80 percent of the chorus has already sung this work many times in their lives. “That’s why the finest orchestras are so good. The musicians all know the standard repertoire; they’ve played it so many times. They can get to the real heart of the matter.”

Getting to the heart also means getting at the details. It might be how you get to the heart. Amy Kaiser, entering her 20th season as Chorus Director, is known for being very precise with language, with pronunciation, with diction. Kaiser arrived with her “IPA sheets” [International Phonetic Alphabet] along with recorded samples of vowel sounds for the German text.

“Amy is intimately familiar with the work,” Patterson added. “She can talk about how the music represents the words.” For example, during one passage the “key is unsure, unsettled, ambivalent, because the text is dealing with the uncertainties of life.” Elsewhere, “a circle of fifths is like the circle of life.”