Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony

Gustav-Mahler

(Gustav and Alma Mahler)

Tonight Xian and I are going to Powell Hall to hear the SLSO and SLSO Chorus, conducted by new music director and all-around swell fellow Stéphane Denève, perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”). Although I didn’t write the notes for that concert—or any notes for the SLSO since the beginning of last season—I did feel inspired to post my program notes (dsopn121317 ) for Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, originally published for a 2018 concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson in Dallas.

I’m  going to be thinking about resurrections and rebirths (René means reborn, not that I chose my own name or anything), and possibly updating this site more regularly than every several months. I do have a lot of new chamber music writing that I could add, for a Tippet Rise concert season that just ended. Tonight, at Powell Hall, I’m going to be enjoying the dulcet tones of my friend Patty Kofron and her peerless colleagues in the SLSO Chorus. Patty also helped me purchase my tickets, with the usual stipulation that I’d much rather hear well than see well. She’s a gem, and I love talking with her about music as much as I enjoy dishing the musical dirt with her.

Since this is my personal blog I should probably take the opportunity to muse more about Mahler and bring up all the Mahlerian matters that I can’t discuss in the genre of Professional Notes I Get Paid For. If I were more of a Lester Bangsian annotator, I might bring up a decades-past experience involving an illicit psychedelic substance and a recording of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s staggering interpretation of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. I might mention, or even reproduce, a minutely handwritten letter to a friend that I was writing while listening to this Children Death Songs cycle, over and over again, in the company of the aspiring composer I was living with, co-captain of our extremely boring-to-recount-and-yet-harrowing-to-experience trip). For several consecutive hours, neither of us wanted to listen to anything else except this song cycle about dead children, and I must thank the unnamed aspiring composer (and indirectly his professor) for hooking us up with the good stuff, that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recording, still my favorite, which was that night branded into my brain forever and ever amen. This is my favorite song in the cycle, the one I couldn’t quit hitting repeat on: “Nun will die Sonn so hell aufgehn.” If the link doesn’t work (I won’t seem to spring for the premium plan, all you profiteering WordPress executive scoundrels), just search Youtube or your favorite streaming service for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing it, and you won’t regret it.

My mind was already primed for the over-the-top intensity verging on kitsch sentimentality of the dead-child concept, thanks partly to the great Dolly Parton and her vast canon of ballads about victimized children. Listen to a lot of classic country music (Dolly and the Louvin Brothers and Leadbelly and the Carter Family and George and Tammy), as I was doing at the time of my primal, hallucinogen-enhanced Mahler encounter, and the theme of dead kids is going to come up again and again, the same way it does in Renaissance poetry and my daily newspaper (St. Louis City, my heartbreaker of a hometown, maintains a high tally of murdered children, among them my husband’s recently murdered coworker’s recently murdered 10-year-old daughter). The details change, but the acute and particular grief of surviving a child is eternal. The pain of that loss barely seems endurable, and yet millions and millions have endured it or are enduring it right now. They can’t go on, they go on.  Mahler and Dolly and the Louvin Brothers and Shakespeare and Dickens and Beckett and Morrison, so many unsung others, turn our constant sorrow into a tribute, a consolation, a promise. A grief-stained joy almost seems possible.

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Bernstein and Orff

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This weekend guest conductor Bramwell Tovey leads the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Chorus in Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

If you can’t make it to the live concert at Powell Hall tonight, tune in at 8 PM CST to St. Louis Public Radio. That’s FM 90.7 for those of you in the broadcast range, or you can follow the livestream here:

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/#stream/0

My program notes can be read on the SLSO website, in the Plan Your Visit section, but here’s a somewhat longer version for those who enjoy extraneous details.

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All Vivaldi

vivaldi(His famously red hair must be powdered or obscured by a periwig, but this is supposedly Antonio Vivaldi.)

This weekend (December 1 and 2, 2017), guest conductor Nicholas McGegan leads the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and members of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus in a wide-ranging program of works by Antonio Vivaldi. If you can’t make it to Powell Hall tonight (concert starts at 8:00 CST, and tickets are still available!), be sure to tune in to the live stream on St. Louis Public Radio at 8:00 PM Central Time.

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/#stream/0

Program:
VIVALDI Concerto in D minor for 2 Violins, Cello and Strings
VIVALDI Concerto in F major for 2 Horns and Strings
VIVALDI Gloria in D major, RV 589

Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Jay Carter, countertenor
Thomas Jöstlein, horn
Christopher Dwyer, horn
St. Louis Symphony Chorus, Amy Kaiser, director

My program notes are linked below. (You can also read the notes on the SLSO website, as usual, where they are formatted somewhat differently and slightly abbreviated; I’m including the link only because I think a few people might enjoy the gratuitous David Bowie and Rufus Wainwright references. However, the SLSO website version contains better images and supplementary information, so check that out, too.)

vivaldislso2017

 

The Flying Dutchman

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On May 4 and 6 (Thursday and Saturday) the St. Louis Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Chorus perform Richard Wagner’s opera Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) in its entirety. I’m very much looking forward to attending the Thursday evening performance with my mom, and I’ll be sure to tune in to the live broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio on Saturday night as well.

My notes begin on p. 25. Yes, I realize that I left a great many things out, but that’s what happens when you attempt to stick to your word count (and fail, but only mildly). I guess no one will miss my wanton gothisms.

http://tinyurl.com/mysgj9x

Walton, Nicolai, and Elgar

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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.

http://tinyurl.com/hhxxrxq

My program notes are on pp. 26-30.

Two Wolfgangs

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“The Requiem is beautiful, like everything Mozart made, but it’s also profoundly scary. It sucks your measly soul into its wild dark maw and swallows it whole.”

Later today (Sunday, November 20), I’m going to see the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus perform Mozart’s Requiem, about which I am very excited. My friend Patty is singing, which is always a pleasure, and I’m going with my longtime pal Cat Pick, also always a pleasure. I didn’t write the program notes for this concert, but as it happens, I did write about Mozart’s Requiem for the Dallas Symphony a couple of seasons ago. Here’s an oldie-but-hopefully-goodie: Wolfgang Rihm’s Trio Concerto and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem. These notes were originally published in a somewhat different form, in the spring of 2015, but I hold the copyright, so here they are in their original incarnation.

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Vaughan Williams, Berg, Holst

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On May 6 and May 7, the St. Louis Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Chorus performed Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Flos Campi, Alban Berg’s Altenberg Lieder (with special guest soprano Christine Brewer), and Gustav Holst’s The Planets. That’s Holst in the photo. I feel tenderly disposed toward him because I am also extremely myopic.

My notes begin on p. 26:
http://tinyurl.com/z6y4rt8

 

Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette

 

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Way back in mid-March, the St. Louis Symphony performed Hector Berlioz’s magnificent and underperformed dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette. I wrote about it here (my annotations begin on p. 26).

The painting, by the way, is by the English pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse, from 1898. It’s not as old as Berlioz’s musical work, but I think it captures the spirit.

http://tinyurl.com/z2uz6zy

Wagner’s Parsifal (selections) and Beethoven’s Ninth

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On October 9, 10, and 11, the St. Louis Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Chorus perform Beethoven’s Ninth (and final) Symphony, preceded by selections from Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal. I write about the two works here (my essay begins on p. 25):

http://tinyurl.com/o7gs4ga

All-Beethoven program at the St. Louis Symphony

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It has been a terribly long time since I have updated my blog. I have been writing a lot of program notes–mostly for the Dallas Symphony, and more on that in a future post–but I haven’t been blogging, and I apologize to the half-dozen or so of you that follow my lame ass.

My lameness aside, I am very, very excited about this weekend’s upcoming performance by the St. Louis Symphony. As most of you know, two of the pieces on this program, Three Equali for Four Trombones and the Mass in C, are very rarely performed. The St. Louis Symphony, in fact, hasn’t ever performed either of them. (The other piece, Symphony No. 8, is performed far more often but still not as often as many of his other symphonies: the even-number curse, perhaps.)

Without further ado, here is a link to my notes on the program. I’m also including a link to a profile on St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser, which I also wrote. Ms. Kaiser is celebrating her twentieth-anniversary season with the symphony this year, and we are all very grateful to her for making the Chorus one of the best in the country.

The St. Louis Symphony performs this all-Beethoven program on January 23 and January 24:

http://www.stlsymphony.org/globalassets/connect-files/sls-jan15-insert2-4-final.pdf

An interview with Amy Kaiser, St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director:

http://www.playbillarts.com/features/article/8850.html