(I love this photograph so, so much: wretched old dreamer Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, on a settee, flanked by well-upholstered, waistcoated, pocket-watch-flaunting grandees. Apologies to possible copyright holders; I’ll take it down if you like, or attribute credit if you send me the information. This photo must date to about 1890, or so; Tchaikovsky died at 53 on November 6, 1893, after possibly contracting cholera on purpose.)
This weekend Music Director David Robertson leads the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in works by Mackey, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky, with special guest piano virtuosa Orli Shaham performing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. If you can’t make it to one of the performances at Powell Hall—and good tickets are still available! —be sure to tune in to the live broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio, which begins at 8:00 pm CST. Here’s the website to listen if you want to hear this gorgeous (Russian-ish) program but can’t make it to Powell Hall in St. Louis: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/#stream/0
My notes can be found here.
This weekend, February 24 and February 25 (but not Sunday, sadly), the St. Louis Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Chorus perform William Walton’s insane and gorgeous oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast. Also on the program are Otto Nicolai’s delightfully nutty overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor and Edward Elgar’s Falstaff, a more nuanced and tragic portrait of the same Shakespearean buffoon. (Sense a literary theme here? SLSO programs are always very thoughtfully conceived, which makes writing an introduction somewhat easier.)
You can tune in to the live broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio if you can’t make it to the concert at Powell Hall tonight. The St. Louis Public Radio broadcast streams live on the website, too, starting at 8:00. Once I figure out how to make a hyperlink again, I will do it; in the meantime, Google is your good buddy. And speaking of good buddies, check out the photo I found featuring William Walton (left) with a baby koala. Baby koala doesn’t seem too impressed, but my huge love for Walton’s facial expression compensates for the fact that he is much older in this photo than he was when he composed Belshazzar’s Feast, a completely koala-free endeavor as far as I can determine.
My program notes are on pp. 26-30.
I had the good fortune of interviewing Shannon Wood, St. Louis Symphony Principal Timpani, for Playbill. We met in his percussion studio/rehearsal space, across the street from Powell Hall. We talked about Kraft’s Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra, No. 2, his mallet business sideline, and lots of other fascinating stuff.
You can read it here if you like:
I have been terribly remiss in updating my blog, but better late than never, I suppose. In these program notes for the St. Louis Symphony (this weekend! I know! I suck!), I wrote about the much-misunderstood Richard Strauss: specifically, his tone poems Don Quixote and Macbeth, as well as the final scene from his final opera, Capriccio. I have many more things to say about Richard Strauss than I could express in the allotted space, and I think I’m going to start adding “extra” content to my blog posts. Why not? But not right now because other deadlines are nigh.
Anyway, here is a link to this weekend’s fantastic concert. If you didn’t manage to score tickets, you can listen to the live radio broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio beginning at 8:00 Central Time TONIGHT (Saturday, 9/26). It will be streaming on the St. Louis Public Radio website if you don’t live within the broadcast region of FM 90.7.
Here are my program notes for the concert:
The St. Louis Symphony performs Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, Glanert’s Frenesia (in its U.S. premiere!), and Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (with pianist Emanuel Ax) on Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26, 2015. My program notes start on p. 26.
My program notes for “Joshua Bell Returns,” St. Louis Symphony, November 29, November 30, and December 1 (Smetana, Sibelius, Dvorák, Rautavaara). I have a very good feeling that this concert will be extraordinary.
Here is a link to my program notes for the final St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra performance of the season:
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.”
Sorry for the short notice, but in just under an hour (8:00 CT) anyone who isn’t fortunate enough to be at Powell Hall tonight can listen to the live broadcast of the world-renowned soprano Christine Brewer performing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Here is a link about the program:
Here is where you can tune in if you’re not within the broadcast range of KWMU 90.7, St. Louis Public Radio:
And here is a link to the program notes (not written by me):
Happy birthday to Bartolomeo Cristofori, who invented the piano we know today, more or less.
No one knows much about his early life, and no one knows how many pianos he built for his extremely wealthy and (I’m guessing) rather eccentric patrons. Only three of Cristofori’s original piano fortes survive today, all from the 1720s.
- A 1720 instrument in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. This one was extensively altered by later builders. It’s still playable, but it probably sounds nothing like it did when new.
- A 1722 instrument in the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali in Rome, ravaged by worms and no longer playable.
- A 1726 instrument in the Musikinstrumenten-Museum of Leipzig University, no longer playable, although recordings of it exist.
All three of these instruments have the same Latin inscription:
BARTHOLOMAEVS DE CHRISTOPHORIS PATAVINUS INVENTOR FACIEBAT FLORENTIAE [date]
Translation: “Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, inventor, made [this] in Florence in [date].”
1722 version (see above).
In your honor, Signore Cristofori (may I call you Bart?), I’m going to listen to lots and lots of piano music today: Bach, Beethoven, Ligeti, Schubert, Chopin, Franck, Brahms, Debussy, possibly Prokofiev. Maybe some Monk and some Vijay Ayer, too. Oh, and why not throw in some Nicky Taylor and Johnnie Johnson while I’m at it?
And I will dust my beautiful 1926 Knabe parlor grand and rue my faithlessness.
The perfect soundtrack/antidote to a dreary, chilly day spent inside copy editing.
I imagine that it would be a wonderful soundtrack for other purposes, too, but that’s its purpose today, chez René.
I know I haven’t been updating the blog in a few days. Real life intrudes obnoxiously sometimes.