Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Music Review: Rufus Wainwright Makes "Some Art" with the SLSO

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Music Review: Rufus Wainwright Makes "Some Art" with the SLSO

Article excerpt

"Let's make some art together," Rufus Wainwright said near the top of his concert with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Powell Hall.

The American-Canadian singer-songwriter and the orchestra did just that, and before the show was over the audience would join in, too. But it was Wainwright who did most of the heavy lifting.

Coming off a string of solo dates, he admitted to the audience that he was "quite nervous."

"To come to this beautiful hall and work with this wonderful orchestra and this fantastic conductor (Lee Mills) was a bit shocking," he said.

If that was so, it wasn't apparent in his performance, which was intimate, emotional and, in terms of his luscious tenor vocals, silky-smooth.

But it may have come through in the song selection, which featured Wainwright performing by himself for more than a third of the concert, including more than half of the brief opening set.

Even that worked in Wainwright's favor, however. His well-crafted songs are suited to a variety of contexts: solo, in rock band settings, and of course, with orchestral accompaniment. When the SLSO joined in, the arrangements, many of them by Max Moston, felt organic and not at all grafted on.

Wainwright began the evening with a bright, bouncy "April Fools," which, he joked, sounded "like a Burt Bacharach song." He followed that with "The Art Teacher," an elegant, aching piece about a romantic crush.

The orchestra accompanied "This Love Affair, "Vibrate" and "Who Are You New York?" but most of the opening set was given over to solo performances.

They included "Beauty Mark," which is about Wainwright's late mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle; "The Maker Makes," which he wrote for the film "Brokeback Mountain," and "A Woman's Face (Sonnet 20)," from his 2016 classical crossover album, "Take All My Loves," for which he adapted nine of Shakespeare's sonnets.

The second set, too, was front-loaded with solo numbers, most notably a stark yet gorgeous "Les Feux d'artifice t'appellent," an aria from Wainwright's first opera, "Prima Donna. …

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