Flying Home

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The St. Louis Symphony flies home Wednesday evening from a highly successful California tour–and not only because of the food the musicians found. A few blurbs to flaunt: Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle on the Messiaen: “a brilliant and vividly colored performance”; Georgia Rowe of San Jose Mercury News on both programs (Adams-Mahler & Messiaen) in Berkeley: “Best of 2016? It’s already on my list”; and Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register on the Mahler 5 at Soka University: “a distinguished and communicative performance.” Principal Horn Roger Kaza and Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik both received numerous shout outs from the California press. There will be more reviews to come, which you can read in their entirety here: click.

I reached Principal Timpani Shannon Wood at LAX. “Last night went really well,” he said in what sounded like an understatement. Shannon said Resident Conductor Steven Jarvi, who was in the hall, told him, “It was the most exciting and clearest to hear of all the Messiaen concerts. Part of that is the clarity of Disney Hall,” Shannon said. “There’s lots of space and it’s such a beautiful hall.”

Shannon had an especially busy day on Tuesday, giving master classes and lessons for five hours at USC, then rehearsal, a break before the show and then From the Canyons to the Stars.

Shannon commented on the bonding experience the musicians have while on tour. Like most St. Louisans, the orchestra lives all over the city and the region, so opportunities to come together away from the stage are not entirely common. “It was my first California tour with the orchestra,” Shannon said, “and it was a really great opportunity to talk with people I normally don’t talk with. Robertson was hanging out with us after the concerts too.”

And then there was the food. “Out here you can have any cuisine you want, and quality cuisine,” Shannon said. “Dim sum, shabu-shabu, which comes with a big pot–you choose your broth and then you choose your ingredients and you cook it. I had Korean barbecue with a timpanist from the L.A. Phil.”

Shannon summed up the California Tour: “Great music, bonding, great food, seeing old friends, being in a geographically wonderous place.” Plus time for Shannon and Principal Flute Mark Sparks to visit a vineyard near Sonoma. Here are some of Shannon Wood’s photos:

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall
A visit to Din Tai Fung
A visit to Din Tai Fung
Lers Ros Thai
Lers Ros Thai
California vineyard
California vineyard
Shannon Wood-Mark Sparks selfie
Shannon Wood-Mark Sparks selfie
Shannon at the winery
Shannon at the winery
California sunset
California sunset

Dear Life

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Gustav Mahler had gained in confidence as a composer by the time he took on his Fifth Symphony. This was a turning point for him. He stopped writing extensive program notes, and he moved away from the vocal parts that are so significant to his previous three symphonies. The orchestra would be his voice.

Trumpets
Trumpets

And since he wanted his symphonies to be able to contain the world, the orchestral voice needed to be infinitely varied. Above you see a row of nine trumpets played by four musicians during Mahler 5 this week. I think a couple trumpets are missing. I asked one brass player, at the morning rehearsal break, if he was getting a workout with this symphony.

“Sometimes you’re just holding on for dear life,” he said.

“Is that written in the part?” I asked.

“It’s implied.”

The Mulholland Drive Effect

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There’s a scene in David Lynch’s eerie masterpiece, Mulholland Drive, in which the entire film turns and becomes a distorted mirror image of itself. I had a friend who saw the Cannes Festival screening of it, and because it was late in the festival and she’d already seen dozens of movies, she nodded off for just a moment. When she woke up, she thought another movie had started.

David Robertson conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 5 at Powell Hall this weekend.
David Robertson conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 at Powell Hall this weekend.

The third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 is like that. It was actually the first movement he composed of the entire work, and it’s incredible to imagine how Mahler could produce a beginning and an ending from this two-hearted center. In Mahler 5 doors open, doors close and then re-open. “How did we get here?” I asked myself often while listening to recordings of the work.

During the St. Louis Symphony performances of Mahler’s Fifth this weekend, you’ll be wide awake. With David Robertson conducting, it’s an exhilarating ride.