Hot Picks: No. 3

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A program deep in the American grain: John Adams’ The Chairman Dances, Korngold’s Violin Concerto, and Dvorak’s “From the New World” Symphony. It’s a program the Symphony musicians love from top to bottom.I love Adams’ Chairman Dances,” says first violinist Dana Edson Myers, “and really enjoy David Robertson’s electric interpretations.”

Gil Shaham. Photo by Luke Ratray.

Gil Shaham. Photo by Luke Ratray.

“I am really looking forward to having Gil Shaham play the Korngold Concerto with us,” says Associate Principal Cello Melissa Brooks. “He plays it better than anyone.” Double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser is also looking forward to playing with Shaham, “To me, [the Korngold] sounds like sweeping movie music. Gil is one of my favorite soloists that comes to town because I just love his playing, but he also seems like such a down-to-earth person and we have a great time making music with him.” The St. Louis Symphony has quite a history with Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra played the world premiere of the work with Jascha Heifetz at Kiel Opera House in 1947, the eminent Vladimir Golschmann conducting.

David Robertson conducts this New World Symphony weekend, January 13-15, 2017, which concludes with Dvorak’s musical response to his late 19th-century American sojourn, which included time the Bohemian composer spent in a Czech community in Iowa. Many American audiences hear the voices of their nation interpreted through a foreigner’s sensibility. Others may hear a foreigner’s longing for his homeland. Leonard Bernstein went so far as to describe the symphony’s famous “Goin’ Home” theme, often referred to as a “Negro spiritual,” as “a nice Czech melody by Dvorak.”

However you hear Dvorak’s Ninth, it is an evocative sonic message written from our soil and from our air. Cally Banham plays the enigmatc theme, and calls the “New World” Symphony “a piece  I hold closely to my heart, as it contains the most iconic solo written for my instrument, the English horn. Finding the right nuances in the solo is a challenge that lasts a whole career, and each performance is fulfilling in a different way.”

Flutist Jennifer Nitchman adds that it “has lots of second flute solos” too.

Thursday: A break from the Hot Pick Top 5 countdown because it’s Postcard Thursday with Celeste Golden Boyer.

Hot Picks: No. 4

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The No. 4 Hot Pick of the 2016-17 season, as selected by the orchestra musicians, is the Dvorak Cello Concerto weekend, featuring Alban Gerhardt making his STL Symphony debut.

Alban Gerhardt. Photo by Sim Canetty Clark.

Alban Gerhardt. Photo by Sim Canetty Clark.

Gerhadt playing Dvorak is not the only highlight of the program, as many musicians gave a shout out to Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Double bassist Dave DeRiso calls Stravinsky “one of my favorite composers. I find his music so engaging. It can be primal, humorous, haunting and uplifting all in the course of a couple minutes.” Principal Oboe Jelena Dirks refers to Petrushka as “such an imaginative, colorful and exciting work,” and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly says without equivocation, “I love all things Stravinsky.” Lutoslawki’s Chain 3 and guest conductor Hannu Lintu also receive praise. October 14-16, 2016.

Wednesday: Hot Pick No. 3. Music in the American grain.

Hot Picks: No. 5

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The votes are in. I asked the St. Louis Symphony musicians to send me their Hot Picks for the 16/17 season. More than half of the musicians participated, and this week I’ll present the Top 5. I’ll begin with No. 5: Brahms Violin Concerto, featuring Augustin Hadelich, April 29-30, 2017.

Augustin Hadelich. Photo by Luca Valenta.

Augustin Hadelich. Photo by Luca Valenta.

First violinist Jessica Cheng writes: “He’s probably one of my top three violinists out there right now. I can’t wait to hear him play one of my favorite violin concerti and what encore he’ll slay.” (Editor’s note: encores are not guaranteed.)

Alison Harney, Principal Second Violin: “He is an exquisite violinist beyond all measure.”

David Robertson conducts. This concert is hot, as chosen by the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony.

Tuesday: Hot Pick No. 4. Another solo string work matched with an early 20th century masterpiece.

 

 

Postcard Thursday

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As promised, Postcard Thursday returns this week. This is our way of keeping you in touch with the St. Louis Symphony musicians during the summer hiatus. What do your favorite musicians do when they’re not practicing for a concert at Powell, or a quartet at a local church, or a duet for a hospital room?

Horn player Julie Thayer is busy with some home remodeling.

Julie Thayer 1She writes: “While many of my colleagues are traveling to summer festivals, I’ve kept myself busy right here at home renovating the house I recently purchased. It’s 135 years old and located in Lafayette Square. One unexpected benefit–removing the ceiling and drywall from my second floor made a pretty good acoustic for my practicing. My new mantra is TIY (instead of DIY). TIY means ‘try it yourself.’ I’ve learned a lot and it’s great to see things come together, slowly but surely!”

Julie Thayer 2Next Postcard Thursday: Second Associate Concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer.

 

Night at the Symphony

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If you didn’t catch the July 11 Night at the Symphony program on TV, which featured the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra’s March 2016 concert, or even if you did, you can watch it anytime on the Nine Network/KETC website. From the rapturous strains of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, you’ll be hooked. Click.

St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

HB DR

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I thought of these few words from a Jorie Graham poem–“working / the invisible”–which is your occupation. Happy birthday, David Robertson.

DR conducts

 

Rock Out

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Good to be back. A few things to come in the weeks ahead: Postcard Thursday returns, with a few St. Louis Symphony musicians sending in a photo or two of where they are and a few words about what they’re up to during summer break; I’m going to spend some time on the word “classical,” a word that is used to describe a lot of music, inadequately; Top 5 musician picks–members of the orchestra have shared with me their most anticipated concerts throughout the upcoming 16/17 season. I’ll be sharing the hot picks soon. For example, here is what second violinist Andrea Jarrett had to say about Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, a work that features nearly every instrument:

Andrea Jarrett in Palm Desert during the California Tour.

Andrea Jarrett in Palm Desert during the California Tour.

“This is just one of those pieces that makes you feel like a total rock star, and also allows you to say ‘Look how good my colleagues are at their instruments!’ I can’t wait to hear this orchestra rock out.”

 

Music Goes Where It’s Needed Most

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STL Symphony musicians perform a concert for patients at SLU Cancer Center.

Finale Thoughts

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STL Symphony musicians share their personal highlights of 15/16.

Beatlemania

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If Charles Lindbergh represents a technological revolution, the Beatles represent a revolution of style. In an attempt to grasp the cultural explosion that was the Beatles, watching A Hard Day’s Night is a good primer. Basically, everything surrounding the Beatles in the movie is old, dull, stodgy, square and authoritarian. The Beatles themselves are young, charming, charismatic, fun, sexy, silly, improvisational, with long hair, irresistible harmonies and a beat you can dance to. Such things can make a revolution, and did. You hear it in the ecstatic screams of the audience. Revolutionaries break facades that open the awareness of your senses and, in Beatles’ parlance, or in William Blake’s, free your mind. All you need is love, and a pair of cool boots.

Check out the boots at Paul McCartney tribute at Powell Hall Friday night.

Check out the boots at Paul McCartney tribute at Powell Hall Friday night.