The Powell Hall chandeliers have been lowered for ease of cleaning. Many crystals, much bronze to be made bright and shiny for another season. It’s one of my favorite summer events. It’s so special that former STL Symphony Resident Conductor and current Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Ward Stare and his friend Anna came to town to give my chandelier photos a sense of scale. Ward returns in December to conduct music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, with Concertmaster David Halen as violin soloist, and Act II from The Nutcracker.
The St. Louis Symphony plays Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed Hamlet, Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare, op. 67, Saturday and Sunday. It is a fiercely dramatic work, managing to project the tormented inner psyche of a madly appealing young rebel, as conceived by William Shakespeare. Leave it to Tchaikovsky to know how to convey a tormented inner psyche.
There have been any number of great stage and movie Hamlets, but my friend Kim Winkler reminded me of a lesser-known interpretation of the melancholy Dane when she sent me the picture above. Those of us of a certain age may remember the extraordinarily popular sitcom Happy Days, which featured Henry Winkler (now you get the Winkler connection) as the lovable hood Fonzie. In one episode, Fonzie actually played the lead in a theater production Hamlet. When youngsters in the audience began to make light of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, the Fonz dropped character and spoke to the audience about his own personal questions about mortality. Yes, this happened on a mainstream 1970s network TV sitcom.
Home again home again jiggety-jig. At least for some. Many musicians are staying the weekend in NYC. And why not? You can find quite a bit of nourishment in New York. Some are taking in a matinee of the Metropolitan Opera, because they truly live for music, or, possibly more accurately, music has become their lives.
The St. Louis Symphony provided its own nourishment to the Carnegie audience. Many raves are coming in via social media and elsewhere. First review I’ve seen. Click.
A few perspectives from those who played the music. From Principal Timpani Shannon Wood: “The talent, subtle musical nuances and the heritage of sound that this orchestra has cultivated over the years never ceases to amaze me. Audiences hear/notice the difference. Guest conductors say how unique and rare it is to hear an orchestra with such tradition and character in sound.
“It’s vital that we continue to share this institution with other audiences. We have something special to share.”
Second violinist Lorraine Glass-Harris, playing her last Carnegie, that is unless some smart orchestra brings her in as a ringer in seasons to come: “My thoughts, yes, always many of them … First, personal, this was my last concert with the St. Louis Symphony in Carnegie. An understandable telescoping of past and present, all the way back to the Susskind performances of the early ’70s, my entry to the professional world of orchestral sports.
“Of greater interest, even to me, however, is the pure pleasure of performing in the fine acoustics of Carnegie. The absolute necessity of the players to be performing not just here but in all the great Halls of the world, not just once, but often in one’s career.
“The value of hearing one’s individual contribution and responding to the collective sound Is inestimable. And the best part, of course, is that the group brings this knowledge back to Powell. Recycled for greater clarity and a fuller sense of the whole.
“Learning how to listen and how to contribute has been among the best accomplishments of my 43 years with the orchestra. Carnegie Hall? Ear candy!”
And from English horn player Cally Banham, who got a shout out from the aforementioned review: “It’s always thrilling to hear my colleagues play in Carnegie–so much detail can be heard of color and subtleties in phrasing because of the perfect acoustic!
“I had the pleasure onstage and off last night. I don’t play the Tchaikovsky Symphony so [Associate Principal Oboe] Barbara Orland and I went out into the audience. At the end of the first movement we turned to each other with mouths agape and said, ‘It sounds like the greatest orchestra in the world!'”
The musicians who have arrived home have come back to spring after the snows of Manhattan. In St. Louis the birds are singing songs much older than Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. But both are familiar songs. We cannot live without them.