David Bazemore

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

St. Louis Symphony Offered Splendid Britten and Shostakovich to a Weary City

On Tuesday night, this large and venerable orchestra earned its first ovation before playing a note. The applause came in response to an announcement that the group had taken the long detour around the closed portion of Highway 101 to be at the Granada in time for the concert. A grateful crowd embraced the respite they offered from the harsh blows dealt our community over the last month, and they were rewarded with an outstanding program of music.

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David Bazemore

First came a relatively recent piece, the orchestral suite that composer Thomas Adès has derived from his 1995 opera, Powder Her Face. It’s a tempestuous, wind-driven affair, and maestro David Robertson coaxed an appropriately Gershwin-esque performance from the players. Next up was another work out of England, Benjamin Britten’s “Violin Concerto, Op. 15,” dramatically different in tone but similarly sophisticated in its exploitation of the instrumental range of the modern orchestra. Soloist Augustin Hadelich showed supreme control over the course of the work’s many dynamic shifts, and delivered a memorable cadenza in the work’s final passacaglia movement. He capped it off with an encore, the saraband for solo violin of J.S. Bach.

The rarely heard Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10 of Dmitri Shostakovich rounded out an unusually thought-provoking program by connecting that composer’s imaginative freedom with the expressiveness of such distant followers as Britten and Adès. Listening to the trombone slice through the symphony’s final movement brought us all back to experience further the primordial power of brass.

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