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.

Coming Round Again

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Double bassist Donald Martin made his way through the off stage percussion prior to the performance of Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra Saturday night to tell me that his very first concert with the St. Louis Symphony was also the Symphony premiere of the work: October 20, 1962, with Eleazar de Carvalho conducting at Kiel Opera House. After telling me that Don made his way back through the percussion to the stage to play it again, this time with David Robertson conducting.

Donald Martin
Donald Martin