The Pulitzer Arts Foundation has a performance space with excellent acoustics for string music, as evidenced by the annual Live at the Pulitzer concerts of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
This season’s series kicked off Tuesday and Wednesday nights with SLSO violinists Xiaoxiao Qiang and Eva Kozma, violist Shannon Williams and cellist Jennifer Humphreys.
Unfortunately, this space is in some ways hostile to the public. Seating is done on folding chairs on the landings of a staircase, so it is difficult to see the performers at the bottom of the stairs or behind the audience, as was the case with the first and last pieces. And the same acoustics that made music so beautiful made amplified narration filtered through indecipherable masks.
It remains a remarkable museum, and the contemporary chamber music series, begun in 2002, has met with great success. The concerts coincided with an exhibition by Hannah Wilke; the season is organized by SLSO’s creative partner, Tim Munro.
The two pieces performed behind the audience were “Whoever You Are Come Forth” by Kate Moore, a cello solo that opened the concert, and “Rest These Hands” by Anna Clyne (from “The Violin”), a solo by violin which was a tribute to the composer’s mother and closed the concert. Both featured slow melodies of long notes, which in Clyne’s room made it seem like the melody was not breathing. Moore’s play was sad and even a little scary, and Clyne is also exotic and sad. The two were the occasion for their interpreters, Humphreys and Qiang respectively, to show a particularly beautiful timbre.