Brahms at the Ready

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The orchestra rehearsed Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” on Wednesday afternoon. Next up: Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Yefim Bronfman, Thursday morning. David Robertson had the score at the ready in his office.

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To Be Part Of

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In my very first interview with David Robertson, in 2004, he said: “Music is a kind of place where everybody’s free to meet regardless of what their background is, regardless of their heritage, or regardless of their personal preoccupations. It’s this sort of open space. It’s an open form, where you can come and be involved with what it means to be part of the human community.”

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The Things That Unite Us

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David Robertson led the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.A. on a tour of its home country this summer, with the final concerts in L.A.

David Robertson
David Robertson

In Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review of the NYO-USA concert in Disney Hall, he wrote: “Why do we need a National Youth Orchestra? As if that weren’t self-evident, Robertson addressed the audience with an irrefutably great answer. Every instrument in the orchestra, he explained, comes from a different place, has a different history, a different shape, a different sound. But take a single one away and you will immediately notice something significant is missing.

“The orchestra, he concluded, symbolizes the way in which ‘the things that unite us are far, far stronger than the things that would seem to keep us apart.”‘

Keep It Simple

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After reading the promotional material for Nike’s new Kobe Bryant “Beethoven” shoe (see Thursday’s post), and especially trying to parse a sentence such as, “The grey color of this colorway represents Beethoven’s timeless quality,” I was reminded of a basic copy-writing rule: keep it simple.

Philip Ross
Philip Ross

For example, I asked oboist Phil Ross about his hot picks for the upcoming season. He needed to look no further than the program for Opening Weekend: David Robertson conducting Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Yefim Bronfman, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with Erin Schreiber, and Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable.” Ross wrote: “Well, the first concert looks pretty damn good. I’d pay good money to hear each piece, let alone all on one program!”

Single tickets go on sale Monday.  Pay your good money for some pretty damn good concerts. You can’t go wrong. It’s simple.

Evening Radio

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Tuesday morning radio featured a discussion of the Future of Classical Music on the Diane Rehm Show. Tuesday evening radio features a live broadcast of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA from Carnegie Hall. David Robertson conducts. Gil Shaham plays Britten’s Violin Concerto. Also on the program: Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Samuel Adams’ Radial Play (a Carnegie commission) and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Robertson and Shaham will be touring with the National YO across the U.S. this summer, with St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra alumnus Sean Byrne in the viola section. You can tune at at 7pm Central Time via http://bit.ly/1u7RIb0.

David Robertson and Gil Shaham in rehearsal with the NYO-USA.
David Robertson and Gil Shaham in rehearsal with the NYO-USA.

How to Communicate “Softer” to an Orchestra

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Sometimes the David Robertson method is this: His whole body slowly goes into a crouch, his knees bending to the point that his head is below the music stand. If all you can see is the top of the conductor’s head, it means play softer.

Happenings

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If you were paying attention to anything other than the basketball tournament in town last weekend, you may have been somewhere near a St. Louis Symphony event, or post-concert event. The Friday and Saturday Symphony concerts with David Robertson and Gil Shaham were phenomenal. Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra knocked it out of the park with Tchaikovsky 5 and YO Concerto Competition Winner Grant Riew’s performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto. After the YO concert Riew and his family were joined by YO manager Jessica Ingraham, Ex Aff VP Adam Crane, and David Robertson for celebratory burgers at Bailey’s Range downtown. Then in the evening a Symphony in Your College concert at Washington University included original works by Principal Timpani Shannon Woods. Robertson made it to that show too, after the burgers.

The place has been so busy I’ve been unable to mention the On Stage at Powell concert last Wednesday, Bosnian Journeys. Through recorded interviews, images and music, stories were told of St. Louis’ Bosnian community. Many of those in the auditorium that night were of that community, people who came here as refugees to escape the frenzy of war after the former Yugoslavia violently fractured in the 1990s. It was a gripping and powerfully moving event. With a great party afterword in the foyer, featuring food from Grbic, Sarajevo beer and slivovitz.

Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne brought many people, organizations and talents together to make Bosnian Journeys successful. Here she is with Symphony violinist Becky Boyer Hall, who played in the show, at the foyer after-party.

Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall
Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall

Everybody wants their picture taken on the grand staircase. Here are musicians from the Symphony and members of the Bosnian community doing what comes naturally at Powell Hall.

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2017-2018

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I once told David Robertson that he was the only music director I’d ever worked for, and my wish was that this situation would remain that way. Now that he’s re-upped his contract with the St. Louis Symphony through the 2017-18 season, that is closer to a possibility.

David Robertson. Photo credit: Keith Saunders.
David Robertson. Photo credit: Keith Saunders.

Cat’s Out of the Bag

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At last week’s Town Hall Meeting it was announced that the St. Louis Symphony would be returning to Carnegie Hall next season. But we couldn’t tell with what or when, because that’s Carnegie’s privilege.

David Robertson Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat
David Robertson Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat

Cat’s out of the bag. It’s officially announced. Click.

The Anxiety of Influence

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During the Friday afternoon rehearsal of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, David Robertson gave the downbeat to a particular passage and growled, “Strauss!”

Principal Percussion Will James and David Robertson during a break in "Peter Grimes" rehearsal
Principal Percussion Will James and David Robertson during a break in “Peter Grimes” rehearsal