A Late Summer Night’s Dream

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Tuesday night is the annual Forest Park concert, with the orchestra tucked within the band shell and David Robertson conducting boisterous music on a cool late-summer night. Then the fireworks.




Fireworks_IMG_2004Most of the music performed Tuesday night may be heard during the concert season at Powell Hall, including the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Feb. 27-28, Hans Graf conducting, part of the Symphony’s Shakespeare Festival). You may have gotten married hearing that theme. When the orchestra rehearsed it on Tuesday morning, I expected rice to be flung from somewhere, or is that Rocky Horror Picture Show?

But A Midsummer Night’s Dream evokes all kinds of memories–seeing a production of Shakespeare’s play sometime in your life, whether on stage or on screen. Or, for the Symphony’s new second violinist, Andrea Jarrett, it connects with the ballet, and, for her, a turning point.

She wrote this as part of her musician hot picks selections: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: I am looking forward to this because I did ballet for many years–I studied so seriously that I ended up choosing between dance and violin. No regrets, of course. The company I danced with put on a performance of Midsummer every couple of years, but I was never old enough to participate and SO envied the senior dancers. Now, I will get to play the entire ballet, which is even better!”


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Where is your symphony this summer? Cellist Alvin McCall is playing in the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in NYC. Tuesday night at Lincoln Center it’s conductor Louis Langree, pianist Emanuel Ax, and soprano Erin Morley in a program that includes the Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major and the Symphony No. 34.

It’s nice to see McCall featured in this cool Meet the Orchestra/Mozart Minute: click.

Alvin McCall
Alvin McCall

When I asked McCall for his 1516 St. Louis Symphony season hot picks, he chose music that connected with childhood memories. “There are a few works that I fell in love with when I was in high school or younger,” he wrote. Three of those works he experienced for the first time at the same summer camp in Switzerland: Holst’s The Planets, Lalo’s Symphony espagnole and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 (“Love that timpani part!” he says). He connects the Mahler Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 with past orchestral auditions (“great section cellos melodies”), and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with memories of concerts by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York City.

In this season in which so much of the music the Symphony is performing is connected to stories–Cinderella, Don Quixote, the Shakespeare Festival–it may add to the intensity of the concert experience to realize that there are stories within stories at play. Within David Halen’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is the concertmaster’s memory of his father first teaching the concerto to him, as there is McCall’s memory of hearing Zino Franciscatti playing the famous work. And on that stage nearly 100 other memories at play, with the present moment of the performance a conduit to them all–making more stories to tell.