No. 1 on the St. Louis Symphony musicians’ hit parade for season 16/17: Alpine Symphony, March 10-11, 2017.
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.”
As promised, Postcard Thursday returns this week. This is our way of keeping you in touch with the St. Louis Symphony musicians during the summer hiatus. What do your favorite musicians do when they’re not practicing for a concert at Powell, or a quartet at a local church, or a duet for a hospital room?
Horn player Julie Thayer is busy with some home remodeling.
She writes: “While many of my colleagues are traveling to summer festivals, I’ve kept myself busy right here at home renovating the house I recently purchased. It’s 135 years old and located in Lafayette Square. One unexpected benefit–removing the ceiling and drywall from my second floor made a pretty good acoustic for my practicing. My new mantra is TIY (instead of DIY). TIY means ‘try it yourself.’ I’ve learned a lot and it’s great to see things come together, slowly but surely!”
Next Postcard Thursday: Second Associate Concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer.
Members of the St. Louis Symphony brass made a visit to Bayless School in Affton, Missouri, to sit in with young musicians and to play a concert. Video intern Nicola Muscroft and Symphony staff member Zach Schimpf made the trip down with Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne and the Symphony musicians. Nicola created this mini-documentary out of the experience. The musicians are Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik, Associate Principal Trombone Amanda Stewart, Julie Thayer on horn, Jeffrey Strong on trumpet, and Gerry Pagano on bass trombone.
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.”