Some kinds of rebirth come in the spring; other kinds of renewal come at the New Year. For most of the St. Louis area’s classical music organizations, however, the time of new beginnings is now.
This autumn, I’m looking forward to distinctive offerings from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, the Bach Society of St. Louis, Cathedral Concerts and others.
The season in microcosm can be experienced on the weekend of Sept. 28, 29 and 30: Three important concerts open three different seasons.
The first subscription series weekend for the SLSO (which stole a march on its official opening with the “Rally Concert,” the just-concluded European tour and a couple of pops offerings) opens with a headliner, a crowd-pleaser and a Coffee Concert on the morning of the 28th. Legendary pianist Emanuel Ax is the soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, while music director David Robertson leads the orchestra in Respighi’s sonic spectacle “The Pines of Rome.” The concert opens with Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra. The program repeats on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
On the 29th, the Guitar Society presents award-winning French guitarist Gaelle Solal in her St. Louis debut, performing music from France, Spain and Latin America.
To begin a season notable for humorous titles in a literary vein, the Chamber Chorus performs an American program on the afternoon of the 30th, “Today, a Rude Brief Recitative.” Its centerpiece is Roy Harris’ “Symphony for Voices,” with other works by composers from William Billings to Virgil Thomson and Samuel Barber.
But there are other weekends to anticipate as well. The SLSO brings the great American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham to perform in a masterpiece by Gustav Mahler, as Robertson conducts the Symphony No. 3, on Oct. 3 and 4. It’s a big, sweeping work with a big, sweeping cast — besides the soloist, it uses the women of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, the St. Louis Children’s Choirs and an augmented orchestra — and it hasn’t been performed at Powell Symphony Hall in a decade.
The Edison Theatre’s Ovations series brings pianist/radio personality Christopher O’Reilly and cellist Matt Haimovitz to the 560 Building on Oct. 12 for their collaboration “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” a melding of classical and pop styles that riffs on everyone from Bach to Radiohead.
The annual SLSO gala has become an important event; this year, it’s “Red Velvet Ball Swings!” on Oct. 20, with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra joining the St. Louisans. The program includes the local premiere of Marsalis’ Swing Symphony; the special gala package also includes pre-concert cocktails and post-concert dinner and dancing.
The Bach Society gets going Oct. 21 in a program titled “Peace & Reconciliation,” with artistic director A. Dennis Sparger leading the Bach Society Chorus and Orchestra in Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass. The gifted soprano Sherezade Panthaki leads the quartet of soloists, and solos in J.S. Bach’s spectacular Cantata 51, “Jauchzett Gott in allen Landen.”
The amazing Russian pianist Olga Kern will perform in recital at the Sheldon Concert Hall on Oct. 28; the program has yet to be announced, but she’s a force of nature, and whatever she plays, she plays with passion. Hearing her in the acoustically perfect auditorium of the Sheldon should be particularly memorable.
Cathedral Concerts is getting off to a late start on Nov. 3, but the series is kicking off its 20th anniversary season in style, with the exquisite English chamber choir Tenebrae. Performed by candlelight, the group’s sound is perfect for the spacious acoustic of the Cathedral Basilica.
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, is marked by thoughtfully constructed concerts from the SLSO and the Chamber Chorus. On Nov. 9, 10 and 11, the orchestra will perform a program conducted by Jun Markl. It opens with Schoenberg’s “Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth),” the Haydn Cello Concerto in D major, with principal cello Daniel Lee as soloist, and the Mozart Requiem.
On Nov. 11, the SLCC asks “What Do You Think I Fought For?” at Christ Church Cathedral, with movements from Carissimi’s “Armed Man” Mass interspersed with reflective music by Darius Milhaud, Australian composer Melissa Dunphy and others.
The Guitar Society offers something in a different mood on Nov. 10 with the Brasil Classical Guitar Duo, their repertoire ranging from Scarlatti to the samba.
Before holiday concerts take over Powell Hall, there’s a lot of fine fare. Another SLSO concert that should not be missed is the staggeringly gifted Gil Shaham performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, over Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 23 through 25. The program also includes Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, “London.” If you’ve got visiting family who don’t think classical music is for them, make them think again with this program.
ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard, $30-$108. stlsymphony.org or 314-534-1700.
ST. LOUIS CLASSICAL GUITAR SOCIETY
The Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Road, $24. guitarstlouis.net or 314-567-5566.
ST. LOUIS CHAMBER CHORUS
$30 at the door; $28 in advance. chamberchorus.org or 636-458-4343.
• Concert I: Second Baptist Church, 9030 Clayton Road
• Concert II: Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust Street
EDISON THEATRE - OVATIONS SERIES
560 Building, 560 Trinity (at Delmar), $20-$36. edison.wustl.edu or 314-935-6543.
BACH SOCIETY OF ST. LOUIS
St. Francis Xavier (College) Roman Catholic Church, 3628 Lindell Boulevard. $15-$40. bachsociety.org or 314-652-2224.
THE SHELDON CONCERT HALL
3648 Washington Boulevard, $15-$20. sheldonconcerthall.org or 314-533-9900.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Boulevard, $19-$39. cathedralconcerts.org or 314-533-7662.