David Robertson, Gil Shaham and members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Photo: mine 2010
I have an attachment to the city of St. Louis, MO. I spent many years there while in graduate school and although my visits to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra were few and far between back then, I will admit being excited about seeing them on tour here in Los Angeles. However, sadly, although not unusually, I found myself in a minority. Arriving at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday, I discovered a much smaller than usual crowd for a visiting orchestra, and worse yet was forced to give up the seat I had chosen when purchasing my ticket to move to another section of the hall. I was told this was due to the “technical constraints” of the performance, but the reality is that so few tickets were sold that rear and side sections of the hall were closed off and people were reseated elsewhere. (Note to L.A. Philharmonic: I don’t know who is laboring under the idea that a Terrace seat is preferable to a Terrace West or East seat, but moving into the rear of the peanut gallery from a closer side seat is by no means an upgrade.) Stranger yet, the audience that did show up seemed completely naïve to classical concert-going etiquette, filling any moment of silence with their insistent and insincere clapping.
Luckily, the SLSO and their director David Robertson, gave a much higher caliber performance than this particular audience may have deserved. The evening featured a number of nearly chamber orchestra-sized works by Stravinsky and Mozart. Stravinky’s Danses concertantes
and Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 were paired with a violin concerto from each composer. And, if this mirror image programming wasn’t enough, the pleasant and affable David Robertson was paired with his brother-in-law, the pleasant and affable soloist Gil Shaham making it rather a Southern California evening by way of St. Louis. The neoclassical Stravinsky pieces were lovely. Danses concertantes
is best known as ballet music, although it was originally written as a concert piece. It had the briskness and accuracy that was also reflected in the Violin Concerto that Shham drove into with abandon. Robertson and Shaham managed to make the small ensemble sound much bigger than they were, but were never overreaching. The Mozart fared less well in one of those overly polite, Romantic readings from the mid-20th century that could easily put you to sleep with a little warmth or something to drink. The Mozart Violin Concerto also sounded like it was playing in the background of some other activity that was otherwise missing. So it was clearly an unfaair fight between these two composers, but the SLSO gave a well polished and admirable performance. If only more people would have taken the chance to come hear them.