Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"an orchestra made happy"

That's how Alex Ross, classical music writer for The New Yorker magazine (as well as his own blog), describes the St. Louis Symphony in an article appearing this week, "The Evangelist." Ross reviewed two recent concerts at Carnegie Hall, and also followed music director David Robertson around St. Louis.

The St. Louis Symphony has a strong connection to the New World Symphony - two NWS bassists won positions in St. Louis last year, and another, Dacy Gillespie, has played several weeks as a substitute this year. Dacy was with the orchestra last week when they toured to Carnegie, while at the same time David Robertson's wife, pianist Orli Shaham, was in Miami performing Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto with our orchestra.

I won't make any jokes here about Maestro Robertson trading his wife for a good bass player - I share Alex Ross' opinion of Robertson's charismatic brilliance, though:
A singular thing about that he actively enjoys his evangelical duties; not many maestros at his level condescend to lead Young People’s Concerts on a Tuesday morning. He’s also a brilliant musician and a master programmer. The St. Louis Symphony, which has gone through various financial crises and labor blowups in recent years, has seldom sounded so wide awake.
This week at the New World Symphony we are also playing a series of Young People's Concerts, performing Wagner, Bizet, and Copland for several hundred elementary school students. It's sometimes easy to overlook these kinds of programs, for the musicians as well as the music director: the pieces (and the audience members) are rather short, the program is lighter and the dress is more casual, and the concert takes place in the morning instead of our usual 8 pm start time. These kinds of concerts really can serve vital, positive purposes, though, both for the art form in general and for the individual listeners:
One thing that the orchestra can do is help fill in the gaps in arts education; many St. Louis Symphony musicians double as part-time teachers in public schools. Whether or not they succeed in building an audience for classical music, they are putting instruments into the hands of children, teasing their minds with themes and variations, and showing them unsuspected possibilities.
Luckily, we also have a great conductor this week, Benjamin Schwartz, who returns for the first time since becoming Assistant Conductor for the San Francisco Symphony. I'm sure Beni will keep our orchestra wide awake, and tease some young minds as well.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I'm very glad to hear about the enthusiasm and interest in the youth programs. This is what is going to keep orchestral music alive.