Hot Picks: No. 1

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No. 1 on the St. Louis Symphony musicians’ hit parade for season 16/17: Alpine Symphony, March 10-11, 2017.

Stephane Deneve. Photo by Drew Farrell.
Stephane Deneve. Photo by Drew Farrell.

Stephane Deneve receives high marks a a favorite among guest conductors. Double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser writes: “He brings to the podium his contagious energy and excitement for making music. He is so demanding of the orchestra, in the kindest, most sincere way, as if we are all working together to create the finest music ever played. (We are!) But his humility in this quest results in some extremely fine and enthusiastic playing from the orchestra.”

The program features Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Steven Osborne in his STL Symphony debut, followed by Strauss’ magnificent Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony). Associate Concertmaster Heidi Harris says Strauss’ music depicts a mountain journey: “…ascending into the forest, meadows, waterfalls and brooks, getting lost along the way, summits and visions, storms, sunset, and nightfall.”

Although musicians from each orchestra section share their excitement for An Alpine Symphony, it’s an especially big night for the horns. Julie Thayer writes: “Strauss wrote very challenging horn parts for this piece, but he writes so well for the instrument (his father was a horn player) that it’s the best kind of challenge and one to which our section will certainly rise. It’s an amazingly pictorial piece and for me evokes such beautiful imagery.”

And it’s the No. 1 Hot Pick of the season!

Effortless Action

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There was a grand little party on Grand Monday night. The Four Seasons of Fashion featured music–Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons performed with a stunning St. Louis Symphony string ensemble led by Concertmaster David Halen–and classic couture selected by Cameron Silver and worn by long-legged models. Proceeds for the Powell Hall soiree, which included cocktails and fancy bites, go to the orchestra and its Education and Community programs. Miran Halen got the fashion ball rolling last fall and was instrumental in keeping it on course toward the success of Monday night. Everybody was smiling throughout the pre- and post-party and throughout the show, which is always a good sign.

Heidi Harris teaches master class.
Heidi Harris teaches master class.

I noticed among the fashionable audience one fashionista was missing, the Symphony’s Associate Principal Concertmaster Heidi Harris. Instead, she was doing the sort of work the Four Seasons of Fashion supports. At the Community Music School Harris gave a master class, free and open to the public and attended by members of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, on the art of performance. Harris offered good work and practice habits along with a bit of Eastern philosophy based on the concept of “effortless action.”

Style, grace, discipline–developing the beauty of being that resonates through the music you make or the clothing you wear or the joy you find among others.

Romantic and Classic

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Associate Concertmaster Heidi Harris performs Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto Friday and Saturday at Powell Hall. She is one of 50 St. Louis Symphony musicians selected by David Robertson to perform solos with the orchestra this season. Heidi shared these thoughts about her music director and the concerto.

Heidi Harris  Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer
Heidi Harris Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer

“Most people know David Robertson as the vivacious maestro up on the podium leading us in concerts, and as the Music Director of our beloved St. Louis Symphony. As a musician, I feel so lucky to be able to know David off the podium as well, and know what a generous and kind person he is.

“I recently asked David if he would listen to my Mendelssohn Concerto and give me some feedback. This was an unusual request in a way, because he is not the conductor for the upcoming Mendelssohn concerts. The request meant asking him to spend his valuable time and energy helping for a concert he wasn’t even going to conduct! I really wanted David’s feedback because I respect him so much, and since I have performed solos with him before where heĀ was the conductor, I trust his instincts implicitly about how I play a piece of music and whether or not what I’m doing musically will fit in naturally with the orchestral tutti or not.

“In David’s usual, casual, and friendly fashion, he agreed immediately to listen to me. David gave me great feedback, and was extremely helpful to me, for which I am very grateful! He is one of the busiest people I know, always jet setting to and fro, but he made time to listen to one of his own when he was needed. He is just that kinda guy.

“When I found out that I was asked to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, I cried. Really, I did. I was so incredibly happy not only to get the chance to perform as soloist with my very own orchestra, but especially happy to be able to perform the Mendelssohn. No doubt you have brilliantly written program notes to read regarding the concerto, so I’d like to share what I feel about it personally instead of speaking about it historically.

“I learned the Mendelssohn as a young child, and when you learn a piece when you are young there is something extremely organic and very special about it. It’s in your blood, so to speak, and becomes a part of you. It has time to marinate and age with you as you yourself age, like a fine wine ages over time. I feel this way about the Mendelssohn, like it’s an old friend that has been a part of me for many, many years. My musical ideas have changed over time, and also my technique, so this in turn changes my relationship with the concerto in interesting ways. It’s always fresh, it’s always changing. The Mendelssohn is at once romantic and classic, which is my absolute favorite combination in any type of music. I absolutely love it, and am so excited about performing it with the symphony orchestra that I love, the St. Louis Symphony.”