Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Robertson, SLSO Make Mark in American Works; CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEW

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Robertson, SLSO Make Mark in American Works; CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEW

Article excerpt

This weekends program by music director David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra found the conductor in his element, leading three important pieces of modern American music. Friday mornings performance at Powell Symphony Hall had a fully packed stage, fully committed performances from all concerned, and a composer, John Adams, in the house.

The program followed and explicated a musical lineage of sorts, from Aaron Coplands quietly passionate suite from Our Town (1940) through Leonard Bernsteins Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety (1949, rev. 1965) to Adams City Noir (2009). All deal with perceptions of American life, from the small New Hampshire town of Grovers Corners depicted in Thornton Wilders play and Coplands music for the film version, to Bernsteins New York, to Adams evocation of the Los Angeles of mid-century film noir.

Our Town has echoes of Coplands populist folksy style, but it goes deeper than most of those works in its brief 10 minutes. Lovely and melancholy, with a recurring five-note theme that ties its sections together, the suite is, like the play, a reflection on the lives and deaths of ordinary people. There are moments of triumph, but those soon fade; so, with time, will our sorrows. Robertson and the orchestra gave it the right combination of sweetness, seriousness and clear-eyed acceptance, in an elegant reading that touched the heart.

The Age of Anxiety is also based on a literary work, the poem of the same name by W.H. Auden. Bernstein followed it closely, but without using the text, and includes a piano as protagonist. In two parts, Anxiety starts quietly, like the Copland, but soon develops a set of full-blown neuroses, large and small, that effectively evoke both Manhattan and the characters angst. Its jittery and jazzy, until it fights its way through to its own kind of acceptance and arrives in a place of calm, via a big theme filled with hope. …

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