The St. Louis Symphony’s 137th season opens this Friday, September 16. On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from the orchestra’s music director, David Robertson, and president/CEO, Marie-Hélène Bernard about the upcoming season. We also heard about what they’re looking forward to most and, yes, got the backstory on that Nelly collaboration.
You can also catch the symphony on St. Louis Public Radio on Saturday nights, starting at 8 p.m. You can find a schedule of the symphony broadcasts here.
Here are four highlights of the symphony’s season:
1. The annual Forest Park concert
This will be the orchestra’s 14th time performing outdoors in Forest Park, this time the date is set, fittingly for Sept. 14. There will be selections from “Porgy & Bess” as well as the “New World” Symphony, vocalist Brian Owens in a work by Adam Maness, the “Star Spangled Banner” and Beethoven (“because you need to,” said Robertson). More details on that here.
“You get a full house of several thousand people at Forest Park,” Robertson said. “The twilight, the changing light, with music going on, and the trees and the shadows and the faces of the people … it is very magical.”
2. A survey of the five Beethoven piano concertos
“It’s the same orchestra, different conductors,” Robertson said. “You get a sense of what these works mean to five different pianists and how they’ve influenced piano writing, from [Beethoven’s] time on.”
3. Composer John Adams’ 70th birthday
Composer John Adams, known for the opera “Nixon in China,” turns 70 this year. A personal friend of Robertson’s, the symphony will perform several of his other works: his Violin Concerto which will be recorded for a CD on the Nonesuch label, “On the Transmigration of Souls,” Adams’ response to the 911 terrorist attacks, and “Gospel According to the Other Mary” which will also be performed in Carnegie Hall.
4. An ode to pop-culture
A surprising entry in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s season is their collaboration with “Hot in Herre” rapper/singer/songwriter and genuine hometown hero Nelly, which is slated for slated for Feb. 3.
The concert, billed as a “night of symphonic hip-hop,” naturally sold out four months ahead of time.
Turns out, the concert has been in the works for over a decade. Robertson said that the album “Nellyville” came out about the same time as he was getting started with the symphony.
“In listening to it, I thought: ‘Man, there is so much that would be great with an orchestra on this,’” Robertson told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “I raised a lot of eyebrows at the orchestra. The nice thing about this being my 12th season … patience is sometimes rewarded. In the case with Nelly, that quiet diplomacy behind the scenes finally resulted in this concert.”
In addition to that performance by Nelly, the symphony has several other hat-tips to pop-culture worked into their performance schedule this year, including tributes to Prince, Pink Floyd and Queen alongside a live score during “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the already-passed selections from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
What: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony with vocalist Brian Owens
When: Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Base of Art Hill in Forest Park
What: David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus with Principal Clarinetist Scott Andrews and narrator Charlie Brennan in works by Weill, Boulez and Debussy
When: Sept. 16 – 17 at 8:00 p.m.
where: Powell Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103
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