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.
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.
Last week I posted photos of the activities going on outside of the concert hall for the On Stage at Powell tango night, featuring Cortango Orquesta. This week, thanks to photographer Joe Schmidt, here are pictures of the show.
Musicians from that evening who are not pictured: Symphony flutist Andrea Kaplan and Cortango pianist Adam De Sorgo.
Last summer when I asked the symphony musicians what concerts they were especially anticipating in the 15/16 season, this week’s Ravel, Vivier, Mahler program was high on most lists–No. 2 behind the John Adams Saxophone Concerto and Mahler Symphony No. 5 weekend at Powell and then on the California tour.
The primary reason is the Mahler, the Fourth Symphony, which double bassist David DeRiso describes as the “softer, lighter side of Mahler…. It’s all the swagger of Mahler but with all the pastoral brilliance scaled down.” Horn player Chris Dwyer calls the Fourth “both utterly joyful and sorrowful. The symphony plays right into this orchestra’s strengths,” he adds. “It would be a mistake to miss this one.” Dwyer’s section colleague Julie Thayer concurs, speaking for both Mahler symphonies: “horn players live for that stuff.”
But there are other reasons this program is so popular to the musicians–soprano Susanna Phillips returns to sing Vivier’s Lonely Child and in the final movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. This is her first time back since the orchestra’s historic triumph with Britten’s Peter Grimes at Carnegie Hall in 2013. And the childhood themes that run throughout the show: Mother Goose tales, a child’s dreams of comfort and a vision of heaven. Concertmaster David Halen calls the three works “masterpieces from entirely different soundscapes. I can’t imagine a more incredible program than this.”
Mahler Symphony Nos. 4 and 5 give orchestral musicians reasons for being. Symphony No. 4 is the other side of the Mahler moon. It doesn’t provide the signature gorgeous racket of Mahler’s great and grandiose Fifth. The Fourth is Mahler’s shortest symphony, and as double bassist David DeRiso observed: “It’s all the swagger of Mahler with all his pastoral brilliance scaled down, so I don’t have to wear earplugs and can mostly hear myself!”
Also to be heard will be the “transcendent” (hornist Tod Bowermaster’s word) soprano Susanna Phillips, singing both the Mahler 4 and Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child.
Concertmaster David Halen has given this weekend of music (April 2-3) big kudos. For Halen, this program, which includes Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, “is a favorite, because these three pieces are some of the most beautiful scores ever written. All three are masterpieces from entirely different soundscapes. I can’t image a more incredible program than this.”
So what makes Mahler 5 the top hot pick of the season for St. Louis Symphony musicians? Mahler symphonies keep everyone busy, artfully. They call on all their chops. Musicians are trained to be attentive of each other in the midst of performance, and Mahler symphonies call for super attention. There is very little the Fifth Symphony doesn’t do, or doesn’t say. There is not an untapped emotion. It is a reason to be, and to be a musician. Or as double bassist David DeRiso said it, “The Mahler 5 is really the piece that made me want to play in an orchestra for a living.”