Hot Picks: No. 3

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A program deep in the American grain: John Adams’ The Chairman Dances, Korngold’s Violin Concerto, and Dvorak’s “From the New World” Symphony. It’s a program the Symphony musicians love from top to bottom.I love Adams’ Chairman Dances,” says first violinist Dana Edson Myers, “and really enjoy David Robertson’s electric interpretations.”

Gil Shaham. Photo by Luke Ratray.
Gil Shaham. Photo by Luke Ratray.

“I am really looking forward to having Gil Shaham play the Korngold Concerto with us,” says Associate Principal Cello Melissa Brooks. “He plays it better than anyone.” Double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser is also looking forward to playing with Shaham, “To me, [the Korngold] sounds like sweeping movie music. Gil is one of my favorite soloists that comes to town because I just love his playing, but he also seems like such a down-to-earth person and we have a great time making music with him.” The St. Louis Symphony has quite a history with Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra played the world premiere of the work with Jascha Heifetz at Kiel Opera House in 1947, the eminent Vladimir Golschmann conducting.

David Robertson conducts this New World Symphony weekend, January 13-15, 2017, which concludes with Dvorak’s musical response to his late 19th-century American sojourn, which included time the Bohemian composer spent in a Czech community in Iowa. Many American audiences hear the voices of their nation interpreted through a foreigner’s sensibility. Others may hear a foreigner’s longing for his homeland. Leonard Bernstein went so far as to describe the symphony’s famous “Goin’ Home” theme, often referred to as a “Negro spiritual,” as “a nice Czech melody by Dvorak.”

However you hear Dvorak’s Ninth, it is an evocative sonic message written from our soil and from our air. Cally Banham plays the enigmatc theme, and calls the “New World” Symphony “a pieceĀ  I hold closely to my heart, as it contains the most iconic solo written for my instrument, the English horn. Finding the right nuances in the solo is a challenge that lasts a whole career, and each performance is fulfilling in a different way.”

Flutist Jennifer Nitchman adds that it “has lots of second flute solos” too.

Thursday: A break from the Hot Pick Top 5 countdown because it’s Postcard Thursday with Celeste Golden Boyer.

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.

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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