Here are some details from my sketchbook and a shot of the page of sketches I did this morning at Powell Symphony Hall.
I posted them starting with what was most distinctive about the program: an organist (John Romeri) paired with two pianists (not credited; staff) in the Saint-Saens "Organ" symphony. It concludes the program with monstrous force. Under the direction of Jun Markl, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra was all about being equal to the task of this stirring composition this morning.
Then a double bassist, with that distracted, counting-the-math, can't-let-down-the-other-thirty-musicians-and-God look one expects in a working symphony musician on the bandstand.
Then guest conductor, Jun Markl. He was a joy to behold, leading the passionate bunch we are fortunate to have here in St. Louis.
As you scroll down, you see that his delighted grin faces, on my page, a woman violinist, but that is just an accident of the sketchbook, not the residue of a leer. Jun Markl looked like that every time I could see his face. He wasn't wasting one single moment up there in the midst of all that music.
This violinist, however, is extraordinarily beautiful, as a matter of fact. I have met her and asked her to sign a previous sketch I did of her when I caught a rehearsal of the Glenn Branca guitar symphony. I didn't draw her as being very beautiful, but she lives and plays that way.
The boot in the next sketch belongs to her. The sexier shoe belongs to another violinist, also beautiful. Sorry to be so superficial, but sitting through a symphony program, one has so much time to stare at the musicians, it would be less than human not to form an innocent crush or two.
The hand belongs to Garrick Ohlsson, who played a Dvorak piano concerto in the middle of the program. He played, pardon the gutter speech, the shit out of the piano. The composition itself lacks edge to my ear (as does the opening piece, a Liszt symphonic poem), but Garrick brought to it what edge he could. He hammered on the piano, just beat the gutter speech out of it.
The people loved it. He repaid our love with a bonus Liszt waltz as an encore. Garrick struck me as the kind of guy who would have played all afternoon without extra pay had we let him and such things been possible. I start to imagine a different and better world where there is a speakeasy after symphony concerts where the musicians jam all night, the way Irish musicians and jazz players do.
I imagine a different and a better world.
They do this program all over again Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. It is worth it for Garrick's hammering and the peculiar beauty of the Saint-Saens.
Just to remind, we really do have the best orchestra in the United States right here in St. Louis. David Robertson says so, and he doesn't lie about music or work anywhere he doesn't want to work. Jun Markl, by the way, has David's old job in Lyon now.
And don't skip the program notes by Paul Schiavo, who is unfailingly eloquent and informed.