Just got home from a wonderful concert with the SLSO (or should I say, St. Louis Symphony, as they are “rebranded”). Grieg Piano Concerto with Andre Watts, Dvorak Symphony #8 and Steven Mackey “Turn the Key”. Gilbert Varga was conducting.
The first piece (Mackey) was cool, especially the beginning where the audience was clapping. At first, I just thought some crazy guy on the main floor was clapping (stranger things have happened) but then the conductor seemed to be encouraging it. Suddenly people were clapping in rhythm (well, somewhat) and then we joined in from the balcony. Finally I saw that Will James (principal percussion and a friend of mine) was leading the clapping from the main floor. The conductor encouraged us to clap louder, and then cut us off abruptly as the orchestra started. A great beginning!
The Grieg was full of colors. Andre Watts was fantastic. I know I have played with him somewhere, but I just can’t remember where. I DO remember when I used to play with the Youngstown Symphony he canceled at the last minute two different times. We in the audience really wanted to hear an encore, but he didn’t seem to be up to it.
Last but not least was the Dvorak Symphony. I have loved this piece since I played it as a member of WYSO at Interlochen Arts Camp in high school. The orchestra sounded better than they have in a long time. There was wonderful dynamic contrast, lyrical string playing, and some really lovely wind parts as well. I think the last movement is just so much fun!
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable concert, much better than I have seen the orchestra play in recent history. BRAVO!