Wednesday, February 17, 2016

(New) season's greetings from the St. Louis Symphony

David Robertson
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The St. Louis Symphony announced its 2016/2017 season today and, after skimming through the complete calendar I have to say it looks like a winner.

You'll probably have your own favorites among the wide variety of programs offered, but here are some of my personal highlights:

"The Spirit of St. Louis" (16 and 17 September): David Robertson conducts a celebration of Charles Lindberg's historic trans-Atlantic flight that includes Kurt Weill's "The Flight of Lindbergh" along with music by Boulez and Debussy (he did fly to France, after all).

"Symphonic Dances" (21-23 October): Orli Shaham will perform Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 4" in a program that also includes Rachmaninoff's nocturnal "Symphonic Dances" and Balakirev's "Islamey". Whether that will be the orchestral version or the insanely difficult solo piano original, I have no idea, although I'd love to see Ms. Shaham take a crack at the latter.

Leonard Slatkin
"Slatkin Conducts Porgy and Bess" (11-13 November): It's always good to see our former music director on the podium; even more so when it's an all-American program like this one, with works by Barber, Copland, Gershwin, and Mr. Slatkin himself.

"Belshazzar's Feast" (24 and 25 February): Opportunities to hear William Walton's vibrant 1931 cantata are not that common, so this is most welcome. So are the other two works on this English-themed program: Elgar's "Falstaff" and the overture to Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor" (an opera based, of course, on the Shakespeare play).

"An Alpine Symphony" (10 and 11 March): I will never pass up an opportunity to hear Richard Strauss's monumental symphonic poem "Eine Alpensinfonie" (complete with wind machine and thunder sheet). Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 1" (with Steven Osborne as soloist) will make for a nice contrast. Stéphane Denève, whose work I have admired in the past, will conduct.

"Rhapsody in Blue" (7-9 April): It's always a pleasure to her the original jazz band version of the Gershwin classic, especially when paired with his exciting "Concerto in F." Kirill Gerstein will be at the keyboard with Maestro Robertson on the podium. The program will include Milhaud's jazzy ballet score "La Création du Monde" ("The Creation of the World").

Alan Held
"The Flying Dutchman" (4 and 6 May): Building on the success of its previous concert presentations of opera classics, the orchestra and chorus are taking on perhaps their most ambitious effort yet with Wagner's "Der Fliegende Holländer" ("The Flying Dutchman"). With its arresting, tempest-tossed overture and themes of redemption through love, this 1843 opera marked Wagner's emergence as a major operatic composer and librettest. "From here begins my career as poet," he would later write, "and my farewell to the mere concoctor of opera-texts." Principal members of this international cast will be American bass-baritone Alan Held in the title role, Irish soprano Orla Boylan as Senta (whose self sacrifice will set the Dutchman free) and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Senta's father Daland

Season tickets are available now at the St. Louis Symphony web site.

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