Kabalevsky, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Shostakovich


Here is a link to my program notes for the final St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra performance of the season:

Click to access 3789.pdf

The concert takes place at Powell Hall on Saturday, May 18, at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are free, with a $1 service charge. Ordering information is here:


There were last-minute space constraints with the YO program notes, which often happens, so the introduction to the Debussy piece got cut. (I understand why–it was the longest essay, even though it is by no means the longest work on the program–so this was the most logical paragraph to remove, and one I probably would have chosen myself if I’d been told to cut for space.) In the interest of completion, though, I’m pasting it here:

Like so many composers before and after him, Claude Debussy turned to literature for musical ideas, and the Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé was a particularly rich source. The men were not only friends; they were kindred spirits in their respective art forms. Both were preoccupied with the liminal, with elusive thresholds and ineffable states, with spaces and silences. Mallarmé’s irreducible, intentionally ambiguous verse jump-started postmodernism, anticipating the linguistic theories of Derrida, Kristeva, and Lacan. Debussy, for his part, revolutionized concert music with his setting of Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune (“The Afternoon of a Faun”), expanding the limits of tonality and symphonic structure. As the composer and conductor Pierre Boulez observed, the flute of the titular faun “brought new breath to the art of music.”

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