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.”
“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 piece 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.
The St. Louis Symphony was proud and honored to host the 399th Army Band from Ft. Leonard Wood on Friday. A group of 40+ soldiers arrived for an open rehearsal of the Music You Know: Storytelling concert, so were treated to David Robertson taking the orchestra through Bernstein’s Candide Overture, Vitali’s Chaconne in G minor with STL Symphony violinist Celeste Golden Boyer, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and other popular works.
Before the show a group met with flutist Jennifer Nitchman, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army Field Band. She told them she was more the Private Benjamin type of soldier, a cultural reference that was lost on them. Maybe it streams on Netflix.
After the rehearsal there was lunch from Pappy’s, and then master class with the Symphony’s Will James, percussion, Ann Choomack, flute, and Jeffrey Strong, trumpet, making use of the stage at KDHX and a practice room at Jazz at the Bistro.
Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne put it all together. Here are some pics.
David Robertson, photographer Deborah O’Grady, and the St. Louis Symphony give a 20 minute introduction–followed by an intermission–prior to the performance of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the Stars…) this Saturday. For the 7 o’clock Pre-Concert Conversation, you may hear more music by this singular 20th century composer.
St. Louis Symphony violinist Helen Kim and pianist Nina Ferrigno will perform Messiaen’s Thème et Variations, an early work from the 1930s. Symphony flutist Jennifer Nitchman and Ferrigno will perform Messiaen’s Le Merle noir, one of the composer’s middle period and birdsong-related works. Robertson will use these examples of Messiaen’s earlier work to discuss the composer’s musical evolution, the journey that led to rapturous From the Canyons to the Stars….
As you may have seen in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, kittens kaboodled around Powell Hall on a recent afternoon. Here is the link to Sarah Bryan Miller’s story: click.
Suffice to say a photo op for the P-D is a photo op for the St. Louis Symphony blog. The to-be-adopted kittens are named for Russian composers, hence the Symphony angle, plus flutist Jennifer Nitchman is on the board of Tenth Life Cat Rescue, which works mightily to make a better world for kitties, plus you can’t keep St. Louis Symphony musicians away from a cat photo shoot.
An ensemble of about a dozen St. Louis Symphony musicians were not done with their music-making day after the Lindenwood University concert on Sunday afternoon. They made their way to Ferguson and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church for a Symphony Where You Worship concert. Featured on the program was music by Symphony violist Chris Woehr, who gives more and more of his time to composing each season.
The evening included two pieces from Woehr’s growing body of work, the premiere performance of The Five Seasons, featuring Jennifer Nitchman on flute, and The Bartholomew Concerto, featuring Phil Ross on oboe and a storyline by Dr. Seuss. Woehr conducted.
The concert also served to celebrate the 50th anniversary of longtime St. Louis Symphony fans Maeve and Dave Horton. They commissioned The Five Seasons from Woehr, a nice 50-year gift to themselves, their community, and to music.
More from my discussions with musicians who are the “inner voices,” or play in supporting roles in the orchestra. This from Jennifer Nitchman, who plays with Principal Mark Sparks and Associate Principal Andrea Kaplan in the flute section. “My job is to make Mark and Andrea sound as good as they can. For example, when they stop to take a breath, I may play louder for that one note, as loud as if they were both playing. Then I immediately go back to blending with them on the next note.”