By Fred Blumenthal Post-dispatch special
This weekend’s concerts by the Orchester symphonique de Saint-Louis feature two recurring themes in this season’s repertoire: modern music and Russian music. Modern music is represented by three American composers – Caroline Shaw, Charles Ives and Christopher Rouse. Russian music is represented by Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with soloist Yefim Bronfman.
In an interesting twist of presentation on Friday morning, musical director Stéphane Denève had Shaw’s “Entr’acte” in 2014, a string transcription of a piece originally for string quartet, immediately followed by “The Unanswered Question”. From Ives of 1906, and immediately followed by Rouse’s “Rapture” of 2000. No time was allowed for the applause until after “Rapture” and for “Entr’acte,” only the fires of the garlands were lit. For “The Unanswered Question”, the woodwinds gained their lights, and it wasn’t until “Rapture” was well advanced that the whole orchestra finally gained its lights.
Shaw is one of the most active and successful American composers working today. At 30, she became the youngest person to receive a Pulitzer Prize for music for her “Partita for 8 Voices,” written for the a cappella group Roomful of Teeth, in which she sings. An active contributor to avant-garde music in New York City, she plays the solo part of her own violin concerto and is also active as a producer.